According to data from Experian Hitwise, The New York Times paywall has caused a decrease in the overall visits to NYTimes.com of 5 to 15 percent.
To understand the initial impact, Hitwise compared the total visits to NYTimes.com for a 12 day period before the launch of the paywall to the 12 days following the launch.
For the majority of the days, there was a decrease in the overall visits between 5 and 15 percent. The one exception was Saturday, April 9, 2011 where there was a 7 percent increase.
Heather Dougherty, Director of Research at Hitwise, says the anomaly is "likely due to visitors seeking news around the potential government shutdown and ongoing budget discussions."
Hitwise also says the effect of the paywall has been somewhat stronger upon the total page views for the NYTimes.com, by doing the same comparison of a 12-day period before the launch of the paywall to the 12 days following the launch. For all 12 days, there was a decline in total page views which ranged between 11 and 30 percent.
Dougherty adds, "One caveat to the 20 article limit is to access NYTimes.com through search engines like Google and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. While using these sources could be a clever workaround for a reader hoping not to pay, to date there has not been a significant difference in the share of upstream traffic from both search and social networks to NYTimes.com before and after the launch of the paywall."
A year ago, I interviewed Matthew Brown of The New York Times after the news search optimization panel at SES New York, 2010. What a difference a year makes.
According to Brown, it's okay to use metaphors. So, let's hope that The Times paywall doesn't result in "death by a thousand paper cuts."