“I do all the pleasing with you, It’s so hard to reason with you, Why do you make me blue? Please, please (pay) me!”
Rupies lament? It might well be. He’s probably feeling more than a little blue after learning that Times Online readers are reluctant to climb his paywall. In the first quarter since building work was completed, Times Online averaged 1.78 million visitors a month compared to 3.1 million in the previous quarter, a drop of 42%. Even more galling is the fact that a very extensive advertising campaign has failed to convince Times Online readers to put their hands in their pockets.
Rumour has it that scribes at The Times are more than a little jarred off at the loss of online readers, as well they might be. Will we see a grand exodus of talented scribblers? Probably not. Those who have worked for Citizen Pain know that he never gives up. He will make Times Online work whatever it costs and however long it takes.
I think he has made a fundamental miscalculation. The internet generation are much more savvy about how they spend their money online. They have learned the hard way how a subscription here and a subscription there can soon mount up and leech money from their bank accounts. They are becoming very discerning about what they sign up for. Paying to read a newspaper, no matter how much they might miss reading their favourite columnist, is something they now think twice about. Yesterday’s figures prove it, don’t they?
There are many ways for online newspapers to extract revenue from the internet: several major titles have become very accomplished at doing so. I’m sure they are very heartened by the Times Online figures. Erecting a paywall doesn’t seem to be a very good idea after all – unless you happen to be the FT or the Wall Street Journal who supply specific market data. I’m sure Rupie will make Times Online work if it kills him, but it may be a very different animal by the time he’s finished.