In my latest Guardian column, "News Corp Kremlinology: what do the Times paywall numbers mean?" I have a good rummage around the mysterious figures released by The Times earlier this month on the performance of its vaunted pay-for-news scheme. The Times released the numbers with a lot of triumphant accompaniment, but I'm not clear on whether their figures can be taken of indication of anything, except, perhaps, a reluctance to report in full on their experiment's performance.
Here's what the Times will say: about 50,000 of the current paid users are on a monthly subscription of some sort: £8.66, £1, or free with a TalkTalk subscription. They will not disclose how many £1 trial users turn into £8.66 users, or how many sustain their £8.66 subscription into the second or third month. However, the anonymous official spokesperson did say that whichever users are remaining after three months are more than 90% likely to stump up for a fourth month. From this, I think we can safely assume that lots less than 90% of paid users stick around for a second month, and of those, less than 90% sustain themselves for a fourth month.
But the Times isn't saying.
The remaining 50,000, of course, are people who paid £1 for a single day's access. Some number of these converted to monthly subscribers.
Some number bought a second article. How many? The Times isn't saying.
So, best case: there are 50,000 paid subscribers, all of whom got there by paying £1 for an article, converted immediately to £1 monthly subscriptions and now pay £8.66 every month (or £9.99 in the case of iPad users who want to pay extra for the privilege of not being allowed to access the website).
Worst case: 50,000 people tried a day pass and left. 20,000 TalkTalk subscribers got a free subscription with their phone which they may or may not know or care about. 5,000 people use it with an iPad.
75,000 people tried a £1 month trial. 40,000 of them signed up for a second month, 30,000 of them for a third, and 25,000 stayed on for a fourth month.