Good news for Murdoch from Nielsen figures on paywall take-up

Good news at last for Rupert Murdoch and his team at News Corp with research firm Nielsen reporting that 362,000 people in the UK are forking out to access the content behind the Times and Sunday Times paywall.

It’s no doubt less than they were hoping for but a lot better than the initial gloomy estimates from industry insiders.

The figures for the paywall’s first quarter show that a monthly average of 1.78 million people visited the site compared to 3.1 million in the previous pre-paywall quarter. And of that 1.78 million a fifth went on to pay to view the content.

It has to be remembered that this is not a pure paywall audience, since the figures include those with a print subscription, who get free access anyway, and people who’ve taken up the free trial offer. Yet it gives News Corp a decent platform to build on.

And as with all online marketing, it’s the quality as much as the quantity of the audience that is important. Here the paywall initiative scores well.

Households earning £50,000 to £80,000 comprise 29 per cent of the audience, compared to 25 per cent before its introduction, while households earning less than £20,000 have dropped by five per cent to 14 per cent. Perhaps surprisingly the audience is older than before with people over 50 accounting for 52 per cent of the audience compared with 38 per cent previously.

Furthermore paywall visitors are more engaged with the content, averaging 42 per cent more pages a month than the average pre-paywall visitor. And of course News Corp will hope to generate more revenue from all the detailed opt-in data it gains from subscribers.

So maybe Murdoch will be thinking he was right last week when he shocked the industry by killing off Project Alesia, the integrated digital news platform he was planning to set up with content from other publishers as well as his own.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.