Times Online claims 200K paid users: but where's the detailed breakdown?

Rupert Murdoch's Times Online paywall experiment has released some highly selective statistics this morning. According to the Times's spin, they've got some 200,000 paid users for their paywalled newspaper site, and that this means, "our journalism is valuable and that customers will respond to the investment, innovation and quality that are hallmarks of our titles and our company."

But the numbers are a little odd. First of all, 100,000 of the 200,000 paid subscribers are Times print subscribers who get the online edition for free (proving, I guess, that people like free stuff?). Of the remaining 100,000 "paid subscribers," some unknown number are people who bought access to a single article or paid for a £1 trial subscription for a month, or bought the iPad or Android App. All of these categories are surely "paid customers," but they're not monthly subscribers paying full freight to access the site -- we don't even know how many people who paid for one day's access ever paid for a second day's access (or converted to a regular subscriber).

In the best case the Times got 100,000 people to sign up for an ongoing, monthly subscription. In the worst case, 80,000 people paid £1 for a month's access and never re-upped; 10,000 people bought a single article and never came back, 9,000 people paid for the Android/iPhone app and stopped using it after the first day, and 1,000 people bought monthly subscriptions.

The Times isn't saying which scenario is the correct one. As one commenter on the Guardian's front-page story points out, "If the answer looked good for this concept, they'd have told us about it, surely?"

The last time I wrote about this, the Times's Tom Whitwell (Assistant Editor), wrote in to say that they weren't yet releasing "specific numbers," but that was back in July and now it's November, and the numbers are still pretty nonspecific.

Times claims 105,000 online subscribers


  1. the biased broadcasting cretins (bbc) are covering this too, anything to get Iraqi torture, kidnappings and murder off the front page!:


    “About 50,000 are paying a monthly subscription, either for the website editions or to read the papers on an iPad or Kindle. Many others are buying a £1 day pass.”

  2. I thought that been a journalist with a newspaper is about reporting the truth and facts of the world to the people.

    This should mean reaching as many people as possible.

    If your only there for money as a commercial interest its not news its commerce and as such why should they get the protections afforded by those that put information to the people over monetary matters.

  3. It’s the same guy, 200,000 times. At £200,000, that’s a bargain for making this sort of thing fashionable.

  4. I suggest you add paywall to the title of this article so that it gets picked up in the Twitter paywall search.

  5. I’m hoping they find someway of making it work. There’s too much ad-supported dreck on the web today. Ads are everywhere and most of the articles are just quickly dashed off rewrites of someone else’s work. The paywalls are a drag, I know, but I would rather have functioning newspapers.

    1. “I’m hoping they find someway of making it work.”

      Yes, I hope they find some way of making YOU pay for everything YOU want to read or view.

      As for me, I prefer not pay by the paragraph.

  6. You don’t need to act like paywalls are an ‘experiment’: they’ve been working for the WSJ for some time. Point of fact, most of the still-successful newspapers are those which had the foresight to paywall long ago, like those owned by Murdoch or Hussman:


    If anything, the non-paywall is the experiment. And, based on the number of papers going under, I’d say it’s clear that experiment has failed.

  7. I’m all up for functioning newspapers too.

    But I worry about the paywall concept. It will add to the digital divide (people who can afford it will be informed, the rest miss out), limits the flow of information (creating silos in society where different self selecting groups have different information flows) and it just feels wrong.

    1. What part feels wrong? It would be nice for news to be free, but that would require some government subsidy and the most important job for the newspapers is to watch the government. We can’t afford to let the news be paid by taxes.

      It’s more important for people to join together independently to fund the news and the simplest way to do that is to pay with subscriptions. I wish the ad model had worked, but too many newspapers have folded already. And it’s just as wrong but in other ways. It just clutters the page with useless crud.

      1. Oh yes, because Murdoch’s non tax funded papers and media in general are fair and balanced. I don’t think that subsidies are the no1 problem.

  8. @ 4 – ADavies

    the assault on us by the corporations/governments will continue and indy & free media will blocked from the internet due to government regulation of the ISP’s, net neutrality not being enforced. the Murdoch’s and other scum will simply pay isp’s to stream their biased fake new propaganda and great alternatives like:







    while bandwidth will dry up to other sources, its payola all again over the internet.

    many many other reliable sources of news will be swept under the carpet through collusion in censorship by the corporations and our governments.

  9. I’ll congratulate Murdoch on probably confusing a large portion of the devoted Times Online readership into paying £1 to read something, then realise the horror that they have to pay £1 for every article they wish to read.

    With the numbers he’s playing with, it’s a nice big cash injection, but the long term effects could be mildly damaging.

    There’s plenty of ways to make honest money online. The first is making it clear to your users that they have to pay, the second is well targeted affiliate adverts. I’m an affiliate myself and do rather well from it.

  10. times just named boing boing the #8 most influential blog on the internet. come on guys leave them alone.

  11. But even government run media can be a success, just look at the BBC, they rail on the government harder than any other media group in the UK. Compared to the faux new circus that Sky News is (the local for profit Murdoc enterprise) with it’s social and fiscal conservative bias.

    1. The BBC are still terribly biased; they just side with the majority, so it appears balanced (to the majority). It’s clever, but it’s not neutral reporting of the facts.

      Given that the government is controlled by corporations I’m not sure what makes you think media companies owned by governments would be any less biased than the corrupt governments that fund them.

      However I do admit that advertising controlled media is by far the worst – if big advertisers want something printed, it’ll get printed – and more importantly the angle on the reporting will benefit those paying the most for ad-space.

      If there’s no corporate insentive to publishing a story then the outlet will aim for maximum sensationalism, even if it means asking 200 scientists for an oppinion and only quoting the 1 crackpot. Even citation means bugger-all in a newspaper.

      And you’re telling me people PAY to read newspapers? ONLINE!? Mugs.

  12. @ ElJoe0 (14)

    the BBC is biased as hell and follows the official line propaganda as much as sky, they are just a bit more adept at pulling the wool over ppl’s eyes.

    ready through their stories about Palestine, or the war on terror, or the recent uncovered by wikileaks torture, murder and war crimes in Iraq, that has now been hushed up, surely the largest release of documents that show American war crimes should be getting more than 1 days media attention, instead they run the Nazi Theresa May 28 day detention bull crud, about removing more of our liberties, and run the official be scared nonsense!

    reporting is supposed to be investigative but the bbc fail continually to ask the questions:

    * Who?
    * What?
    * When?
    * Where and
    * How.

    the bbc just skips to the official release that has been given to them in their snug government propaganda meeting…

    1. “torture, murder and war crimes in Iraq” opinion

      “that has now been hushed up” opinion

      “Nazi Theresa May 28 day detention bull crud” opinion

      While i may agree with your opinions what you are advocating is a reversal of bias to favor your views. News are relatively easy to come by, after all wikileaks is there for everyone to see and make his own mind about it.

  13. “If the answer looked good for this concept, they’d have told us about it, surely?”

    I think the fact that they’re converting other sites to it is a pretty good way of telling us.

    1. I think the fact that they’re converting other sites to it is a pretty good way of telling us.

      But that was always what Murdoch intended to do – and he has deep enough pockets to keep going for a while. All the continued conversion tells us is that he’s sticking to his plan – which is no big surprise. We still have no strong information either way.

  14. Newspapers have traditionally skewed their numbers like this in order to appeal to advertisers more. Our circulation is over 30,000, but newspapers are often read by more than one person, so potential advertisers will hear that their message will be seen by 100,000+ people. They are not wrong when they say this, but the figure is a bit disingenuous. That the Times used their numbers like this is not surprising in the least.

    1. Judith Miller destroyed the Times, not singlehandedly, but effectively. I would sooner pay for the Enquirer.

  15. “Judith Miller destroyed the Times” – wrong The Times. Judith Miller appears to have been involved with a newspaper in New York, not THE The Times.

  16. Paywalls suck, plain and simple. No one likes them and I doubt they’ll become a dominant business model.

    And while we’re on the subject, micropayments suck too. Micropayments are like cancer- if they take hold they’ll infect everything, and pretty soon you’ll pay for every goddamn link you click, every page you view, every comment you leave. Is that the kind of internet you want?

  17. Question: Are their any consequences for lying? Are audited figures of circulation needed for advertisers? Or do they just take the word of the people who are selling the ads.

    “Yep we have 200,000 paid subscribers?”

    “What is your proof?”

    “I’ve got a press release right here?”

    “What about an independent group who looks at your figures and examines them to see if they are correct.”

    “Hey you want to buy and ad or what? ”

    “Well I would like to buy one, but I don’t want to pay for 200,000 impressions when you really only can deliver 120,000.”

    “Why would Mr. Murdoch lie to you? Trust us. Stop asking for evidence. We are The Times!”

      1. Thank you!

        So, there will not be any proof what the numbers are, except what the Times says. Interesting.
        Is there still advertising behind the paywall.

        If I was an advertiser and I was told I needed to pay more since I was reaching another 100,000 people I might ask for proof. And I might demand (and get) actual data about subscribers vs. “bought one article.” If I was a Times competitor I would make damn sure that advertisers knew they are overpaying for imaginary readers.

        One benefit of being a massive media conglomerate is that your divisions don’t have to break out your numbers beyond top line results. So The Times will be able to hide the results of this experiment.

  18. Paywalls are the best thing ever. As traditional newspapers effectively cut themselves off from online discourse, there will be a lot of space for new entrants, which are long overdue.

  19. I absolutely agree with you toyg. The internet I want is the one where American Universities are scanning in out of copyright documents and giving everyone free access to them, not one where there are paywalls everywhere.

    I hope The Times have fun behind their paywall and realise that they are losing potential readers day by day – all those people who might have stumbled over a small article, a comment piece, or just good coverage, and might have started buying the newsprint version, or who would have contributed eyeballs to the ad revenue.

    The Guardian seems to go from strength to strength online and in print… it’s the only paper which regularly goes out of stock early in the day locally. Long may it continue.

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