Murdoch’s Paywall: Those Who Leap Are an Engaging Lot

By: E&P Staff

Peter Preston | The Observer

The Times can take comfort from the fact that its few hundred thousand unique visitors are jolly good sorts

For a totally technical, mechanically precise medium, the Internet is a hopeless measuring tool. How many gallant UK citizens have skipped beyond Mr Murdoch’s vaunted Times and Sunday Times paywall in its first three months? You couldn’t ask a more eagerly anticipated question. Fleet Street is gagging to discover whether Mr M has shot himself in the foot.

Interim answer, from the heavyweight Nielsen company: foot still attached to leg. They reckon that total unique monthly UK visitors to the Times site went down from 3,096,000 to 1,782,000 when the wall went up, and that only 362,000 – about 20% – ventured on to pages beyond the wall.

You can weave webs of relative triumph or disaster from all this. The good news for News International is that those who vaulted the wall were a bit older, richer and more dedicated to scanning the site carefully. They are the “engaged readers” advertisers admire – as opposed to the click-by-night trade who never stop to buy anything. The bad news is that a few hundred thousand unique visitors sounds pretty puny compared with the 20 million or so the Times was claiming before the wall went up.

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