Last week, News UK announced a major subscription milestone: The Times and The Sunday Times reached 500,000 subscribers at the end of June. Digital subscribers have overtaken print subscribers for the first time, with digital-only subscriptions up 20 per cent year-on-year to 255,000, in what the publishers describe as the most successful year since the digital subscription model was launched in 2010.
They have every right to feel pleased with themselves. I well remember the raised eyebrows when Rupert Murdoch announced eight years ago that they would be putting up a paywall. Many thought he was mad, that he didn’t understand the web, that he would be consigning his papers to irrelevance.
Jeff Jarvis wrote an article at the time titled, “Rupert Murdoch's pathetic paywall” in which he said, “Murdoch will milk his cash cow a pound at a time, leaving his children with a dry, dead beast, the remains of his once proud if not great newspaper empire.”
I can’t remember many taking an opposing view, although the late Peter Preston was one. In an article headed, “Rupert Murdoch's paywall at the Times may not be a disaster”, he wrote: “So perhaps he'll lose 95% or more of his unique browsers behind the new wall. So 19.5 million out of 20 million may stay away. So what? The hard question is how much those 95% are worth, and whether they can ever generate enough cash to help keep traditional newspapers in business.”
Hitting 500k and the sight of more and more publishers jumping on the paywall bandwagon have largely vindicated Murdoch’s decision. The trend towards increased reader revenues is gathering pace and it’s heartening to see.
(Not sure if I’ve mentioned it 😊, but we’ve just published a rather good guide on the subject of paid-content strategies…)