In November 2009, I posted, “Murdoch to Google: Drop Dead.” It analyzed News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s threat to block Google from being able to search its Web sites. I said “maybe Murdoch should think twice before pulling the plug on 25 percent of WSJ.com’s traffic” and I concluded, “who knows, maybe the tables will be turned someday and we’ll read a headline like: “Google to Murdoch: Go Ahead, Make My Day.”
Then, in March 2010, I posted “The Times of London to Begin Charging Readers for Using its Web Site in June.” I asked, “Is this the first step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition, or is it the last act of a desperate man?”
Well, we got the answer to that question yesterday. Murdoch has just turned the best selling Sunday broadsheet in Britain into a newsletter.
Robin Good, Research Director of Hitwise UK, posted Times paywall: initial data and analysis to his blog yesterday.
Following months of speculation, News International has finally erected a paywall around the Times newspaper website. After a couple of weeks running two sites, (www.timesonline.co.uk and www.thetimes.co.uk) in parallel, visitors to the former site are now automatically redirected to the latter.
Since last Tuesday, users have had to register to read content on the Times website (as well the separate Sunday Times site). However, they don’t yet have to pay: during the trial period, which is expected to last until the end of the month, simply having registered is enough to access the content behind the paywall.
So, what has the impact been on traffic to the Times website?
- Hitwise has aggregated traffic to both old and new Times sites in order to cut out any double counting and provide a consistent comparison. The title’s market share has dropped from 4.37% during the week ending May 22nd to 2.67% the week ending June 19th.
- The Times was only forcing people to register for part of last week, so the daily traffic chart below shows an even steeper drop off. On Wednesday, the title’s market share was down to 1.81%, under half of its average during May.
- The Times has actually setup a separate site for user registrations, MyTimes+. Last week this was the top site visited after the Times, picking up 17.6% of downstream traffic; implying that a significant amount of users are choosing to register in order to access content. The next most visited website after the main Times site was the Telegraph, which picked up 3.8% of downstream traffic last week.
So, what do I think now? Well, a desperate man has just pulled the plug on a significant percent of the traffic to The Times of London. Do you really, really think he’ll follow suit with The Wall Street Journal?
Don’t bet on it. Does he really want News Corp. to exit from the news media category and enter into the newsletter category? So, I think it’s time to write the headline, “Google to Murdoch: Go Ahead, Make My Day!”