Numbers from The Times' paywall launch back in July are starting to surface. Is the paywall going to work? James Harding of the The Times (London) was interviewed by the BBC this morning. While it is still early Mr. Harding is "hugely encouraged."
I applaud James Harding for thinking outside the box. He started off with a comment of triumph, but it was a tough realization for most paper editors and publishers.
"What we’ve seen is for the first time in 225 years, we’re selling copies of The Times on something other than paper."
Early reports indicate that the number of page hits has dropped 87% after applying the paywall. In the short term a paywall may have reduced their traffic by nearly 90%, but even more importantly Mr. Harding has a grasp on a solid economic principle. The news hasn't changed. Should journalism then be given away for free just because the format of the paper has moved online?
James Harding told the BBC, "what we (newspapers) had was a sort of suicidal form of economics, that is - giving our journalism away for free." Brilliant I say.
Our company, Sabramedia, has implemented a CMS and paywall system for the Jasper Herald Company, a daily newspaper based in Jasper, Indiana with about 12,000 paper subscribers. We are seeing consistent subscriber growth and are regularly selling $5 one day passes. Well thought out paywalls can and should be implemented for regional community papers.
You can listen to the BBC interview here: The Times "hugely encouraged" by Paywall
Concerned about advertising dollars dropping? Read my earlier thoughts on the matter: Newspapers Battle Between Paywall and Advertising
Also worth reading is Vincent Dowd's article earlier this year on The Times' paywall move. Will The Times Save the Newspaper Industry?