Times’ Paid Model: The Unofficial Numbers Come In

The Times’ paid model is just two weeks old but, still, a number of stats came through this weekend – none of them from the horse’s mouth…

First, the meat – some potentially significant first numbers on how successful the paper’s paid websites have been in their first two weeks. There’s no attribution for these, but the fact they’re reported by former Times media correspondent Dan Sabbagh might be some cause for validity…

— Readers registered during free trial period: 150,000.
Paying subscribers: 15,000 (Sabbagh: “This figure, apparently, is considered disappointing”).
— iPad customers so far: 12,500.

If true, this suggests that 12 percent of Times Online’s pre-wall daily audience created an account during the first-month-free period, then a tenth of them have paid.

The Times spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend gave no comment, but we wouldn’t expect them to comment on such speculation.

The next data set, from Hitwise, got some confusing write-ups in weekend papers (FT.com, Observer), but the bottom line is…

The registration wall, despite being free for a month, resulted in site visits declining by 58 percent. By the time actual payments had been required for a week, visits were down by 67 percent, compared with the old days.

This won’t worry many at the paper, since the whole strategy is about courting fewer, more loyal users. And it’s a darn sight better than the 90 percent drop-off that many, including The Times’ editor, have braced for.

Ultimately, we have nothing from Times Newspapers to back any of this up — it likely won’t comment on the reported customer up-take and it stopped reporting its web traffic back in April.

The days are still so early; the new model is just two weeks old — traffic may fall further, but paying customers may get steadily added.

We would expect the paper to shout success, if it happens, from the rooftops in the next month or two.