Reading Between The Lines On The Times’ ‘Paywall’ Numbers

Let’s dive in to News International’s second release of numbers pertaining to Times Newspapers’ digital fees…

They say (1): “Combined, The Times and The Sunday Times had 79,000 monthly digital subscribers at the end of February, up from just under 50,000 on 31 October 2010.”

Our take (1): In other words, the papers notched 50,000 digi subs in their first four months – but only 29,000 additional subs in their second four months.

This is a slowdown. The Sunday Times iPad app, which launched in the second period, should have bumped up these total subs slightly. The challenge now is to maintain new subscriptions at a high rate and, in time, to keep churn low – new concepts, when applied to consumer news.

They say (2): “Notched up a total of 222,000 sales of digital products, more than double the figure of 105,000 for 31 October 2010.”

Our take (2): When you look beyond monthly subscriptions alone, to account also for £1-a-day hits, the rate of digital purchases has remained consistent over both periods, and has actually increased, from 105,000 in the first four months to 117,000 in the second.

They say (3): “Fuelling a three-per cent increase year-on-year in the paid readership of The Times.”

Our take (3): Perhaps taking a cross-platform view is misleading but, for a News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) which has a clear focus on being a paid media company, this trend must be good news. It is essentially trying to build in to consumer news the same kind of revenue guarantees it has in its pay-TV businesses.

They say (4): “There were 228,000 joint print/digital and digital-only subscribers to The Times and The Sunday Times at the end of February.”

Our take (4): So, after stripping out those 79,000 digital-only subscribers, Times Newspapers effectively has 149,000 bundled cross-platform subscribers.

They say (5): “Both brand and message recall are higher within a paid-for environment – by 21 per cent and 18 per cent respectively (source: Promise).

Our take (5): News International is trying hard to convince advertisers they won’t lose out by reaching fewer eyeballs.