Research: 14 Percent Of Times Readers Have Subscribed

More than a tenth of The Times‘ core readers who have internet access have now paid to subscribe to the paper’s website or its web-and-print bundle, according to research. But that falls to only a tiny proportion of news consumers as a whole.

Speaking at Westminster Media Forum, Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates CEO Mark Oliver presented the findings of consumer news research that his firm has carried out (slide deck)…

Of existing Times readers who have the internet…
— 35% have stopped replaced it with an alternative free site
— 51% percent have stopped but have not switched to another site
14% have subscribed to The Times in some form (one off payment, monthly sub or bundled subscription with the newspaper itself).

Amongst all news readers who nevertheless occasionally read The Times site before the switch…
— 41% have stopped replaced it with an alternative free site
— 58% have stopped replaced it with an alternative free site
0.6% have subscribed to The Times in some form

The stats are more useful than traffic metrics from the likes of comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) because they ask actual readers how they have responded to the Times‘ strategy. Though they’re still not fully accurate official stats from News International, which recently reported a combined 105,000 online payment events in the first four months, half of them being subscribers.

“So far, virtually none of the predictions about what would happen have turned out to be correct,” News international’s strategy and production development director Dominic Young told the Westminster Media Forum. “Wee’ve had a very, very encouraging start to what will hopefully develop in to something bigger.”

BBC News has been the big beneficiary of the Times’ strategy, according to the research – of those who have turned to alternative free sites, a majority of Times readers, 54 percent, have gone to that site, Oliver said.

“The BBC is able to put greater resources in to their news sites and are required not to charge for it – that can’t help but influence the market,” Young responded.

“The presence of something so large in the market does and must influence the decisions that people make. It’s important that it’s not allowed to negatively impact the emergence of new models.”

Oliver’s firm has surveyed news consumers’ attitudes and found newspaper sites to be but a small part of the overall mix. “Less than 10 percent of (respondents’) online news consumption is attributable to the website of the respondent’s claimed favourite newspaper,” he said. “News on the web is very promiscuous, as opposed to newspaper readers, which tend to be very loyal and specific.”

If publishers pick a micropayment model for a paid news site, they would need to find a five to 10% take-up to find income which is greater than their current advertising income, Oliver said.