UK Times Claims 79,000 Digital Subscribers

Frequently besmirched since it started charging online eight month ago, News International has, as it promised it would, issued a second set of numbers for Times Newspapers’ progress since then (full announcement below, our analysis here).

It claims 79,000 monthly digital-only subscribers (web, iPad, Kindle) — that’s up 60 percent since a number of 50,000 was disclosed four months ago.

Since most of those subscribers are paying The Times’ £2 per week price (billed as £8.67 per month), we estimate the publisher is making £684,930 per month. iPad- and Kindle- subscribers pay more, £9.99 per month.

News International tells paidContent:UK this 79,000 includes some corporate subscriptions, though it won’t say how many.

Tellingly, News International is saying that the digital fees are putting The Times’ paid readership in to growth, despite falling print circulation, saying “there was a 15-point swing in total paid-for sales“.

Instances of digital purchase events across all the options have slightly more than doubled from 105,000 to 222,000 in the last four months – but this shows that the sell rate has not quickened significantly since the first four months.

In the announcement, which is reiterated as a news story by The Times itself here, News International CEO Rebekah Brooks is “delighted” with the figures.

The announcement:

News International today announces that the number of subscribers to the new digital products for The Times and The Sunday Times rose more than 60 per cent in the last four months, fuelling a three-per cent increase year-on-year in the paid readership of The Times.

It is expected that the trajectory of paid readership will put The Sunday Times into year-on-year growth in July 2011.

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. This includes subscribers to the digital sites as well as to The Times iPad app and the Kindle edition.

As a result of this increase, there was a 15-point swing in total paid-for sales (combined print circulation and digital) of The Times.

In total there were 228,000 joint print/digital and digital-only subscribers to The Times and The Sunday Times at the end of February. Of those customers that had a joint print/digital subscription, close to 90 percent of these were actively engaged with the digital products.

Since the launch of the new digital products on 2 July 2010, The Times and The Sunday Times have notched up a total of 222,000 sales of digital products, more than double the figure of 105,000 for 31 October 2010. This includes total sales of one-day passes to the websites along with cumulative sales of the newly launched Sunday Times iPad app.

These figures were at the centre of a presentation to News International staff today (Tuesday) by Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks. Rebekah Brooks said: “We are delighted with these latest figures. Not only do they continue to demonstrate that ever larger numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism across a variety of digital formats, they also tell a great growth story for The Times which will be matched by The Sunday Times very soon. This has been achieved in a very short time.

“Our industry is being redefined by technology and we will no longer measure the sales and success of our newspapers in print circulation terms alone. The combination of print and digital is a potent force for our great journalism and our commercial success. Our rapidly growing customer base is incredibly attractive to advertisers due to their engagement levels and profile.

The multi-platform growth of The Times and Sunday Times gives advertisers and commercial partners a unique opportunity to combine scale and reach with a highly engaged and valuable audience who are prepared to make a long-term commitment to paying for premium content, award-winning journalism and innovative new formats.

Our subscribers represent a premium and influential audience with 79% of our committed customers earning higher than average salaries and 46% earning more than £50k (source: Axicom)

One of the drivers behind The Times success has been its iPad app. A new Sunday Times app was launched in January 2011 and was recently ranked the world’s number one magazine and newspaper brand on the iPad according to iMonitor.

The Times and The Sunday Times iPad apps are available as part of a digital subscription, £2 for a week. The Times iPad app is also available direct from iTunes at £9.99 for a month while The Sunday Times app is available direct from iTunes for £1.79 a week.

Research released last month by News International revealed that consumers in a paid-for environment are more engaged with the content, have higher expectations of the quality of the content and have a more positive response to brands.

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