What Paywalls Could Mean for PR 4

The following excerpt is from Simon Hilliard in Racepoint’s UK office. You can follow Simon on Twitter at @simonhill.

There has a been a heck of a lot of discussion, analysis and comment since Monday when News Corporation announced official subscriber figures for the, relatively new, Times and Sunday Times websites.

A quick history: News Corps’ ever enigmatic head honcho Rupert Murdoch and associates got rather fed up with the freebie nature of providing news content online that has followed the rise of this here Internet. To deal with this, a paywall was erected around The Times and Sunday Times websites that halted Google and the like from crawling content and indexing it for any and all to find, and also required anyone wishing to view news online to pay for it – by either buying a day pass or subscribing.

Until now, the success of this has been something of a mystery for those in the media, advertising and PR lands. It was acknowledged from the off that the paywall would significantly reduce the number of visitors to the newspaper sites, but the trade off would be the quality of reader (and some cash). Since the walls went up in June we’ve waited, literally in the middle of our seats, to see what’s what. And now we know.

According to figures released by News Corp this week, the paper has “more than 105,000 customer sales to date”. That’s around 0.5 per cent of the 20 million unique monthly visits they had before the paywall. Or 0.25 per cent if you chop out all those paying for a day pass rather than a regular subscription…or 5 per cent of the 5 per cent paying vs free subscribers you generally need to make a ‘freemium’ model business work (not that they’re shooting for freemium). You know what, don’t get bogged down in the numbers.

The point is, there’s way less people clapping eyes on Times editorial than there used to be. But those that do are, one would assume, more engaged, dedicated readers. Times editor James Harding thinks so anyway, as he’s stated “We haven’t been cut off from the conversation, because the media works as a huge echo chamber and readers are commenting on our stories in a more engaging way.”

So what does this all mean for PRs? Let’s have a look:

Read the rest of Simon’s post here.

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