paywall2 Results from the London Times’s paywall implementation are coming in. For the first part of the implementation, the Times has gone to a registration wall, rather than a paywall—the site is still free to read, but users must register to do so.

According to statistics from Hitwise, the Times’s site lost about 1/3 of its traffic just from users who were unwilling to take the time to register to keep reading for free.

Of course, Rupert Murdoch would probably say those people were all freeloaders, and the site will be better off without the additional load on its servers once the “pay” part of the paywall kicks in. But one wonders whether advertisers will feel the same way. Will the paywall take in enough to offset the loss in revenue?

So, its still early days, but the conclusion so far seems to be this: since it forced users to register in order to view its content, the Times has lost market share. However, this decline has clearly not been catastrophic and none of the paper’s rivals has particularly benefitted. Yet. The real test will come when people actually have to pay rather than simply register to view the Times’ content.


  1. I’m not surprised by this result. We have some complete-text book previews at Scribd—they can be read online but not printed or downloaded—that each have thousands of views and yet not one actual hard copy purchase has come out of it. It just goes to show, I think, that the vast majority of people are perfectly willing to look at and/or read something for free that they wouldn’t be willing to pay one dime for.

  2. I don’t think that’s it, Mark. People do pay for a lot of content—iTunes, eMusic, Kobo, Netflix, Amazon etc. I think people are just weary of having to register at multiple sites and provide their information to multiple people to do so. This is why even though I have a Kindle, I have yet to buy Kindle books besides a replacement dictionary—because I have bookshelves elsewhere and don’t want to get enmeshed into a new system when all my stuff is in one or two central places right now. If I could see the ‘Times’ content without registering—or via an aggregator like Google I use already—fine. But if it’s suddenly behind a registration wall and I have to register at yet another place, it’s going to give me pause about whether this is really content I need.

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