So, how's that New York Times pay wall strategy holding up? An analytics firm, Experian Hitwise, checked in on the very-porous by design, recently erected pay wall with a twelve-day study taking stock of the website traffic to America's newspaper of record. Their recently published findings, detailed in the charts below, depict declining overall pageviews from between 15 to 30 percent.
Should this be alarming? Well, it's not like the site tanked like Rupert Murdoch's impenetrable pay wall at The Times of London. But considering that New York Times executives have devised the pay wall so that traffic to the website wouldn't plunge, it's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the first few weeks of the experiment even if the company expected "a slight dip" in traffic.
Since media types have been poring over this study (and its numerous caveats) all night, we've highlighted the most interesting responses to the study below the charts:
Total Visits - Pre & Post Pay Wall:
Total Page Views - Pre & Post Pay Wall:
And here's how the numbers are being digested by the media about media:
- It Seems Like Readers Aren’t Sticking Around As Long or Reading as Much notes Mathew Ingram at Giga Om:
The other important element in the numbers is that pageviews dropped sharply, and much more than individual visits, which suggests that visitors are reading fewer articles. Again, while it’s still early, this seems to indicate that readers aren’t sticking around as long or reading as much — perhaps because they are afraid of using up some of their 20 free articles per month. That’s important because “engagement,” or time spent on the site and repeat visits, is a key metric that advertisers look at.
- The Real Danger Is If the Decline Continues writes Anthony Ha at MediaBeat.
The Times has said that the vast majority of readers should never encounter a paywall because they can view 20 articles per month for free, and they can also follow links from search engines, social networks, and other websites without being blocked. The challenge is to remain open to visitors while also convincing a dedicated minority to pay. If, instead, The Times is frightening casual visitors away because they’re worried about the paywall, or if the more frequent readers choose to read less rather than pay, then the company may want to rethink its plans.
- The Amount of People Using Work Arounds Appear To Be Small figures Noah Davis at Business Insider.
Finally, the percentage of traffic coming from search engines and social networking sites has remained essentially the same, meaning people are not using those as a workaround to avoid the 20-article per month limit. Given that Lincoln offered almost everyone we know free access to the website, we are not exactly surprised.
- The Daily Drop Off in Visitors Hasn't Accelerated in April as this month has progressed, finds paidContent's Joseph Tartakoff.
Instead, the daily decrease seems to have stayed steady at between 5 percent and 10 percent a day. The news rush last week however may have meant that the drop-off in traffic from visitors who decided not to pay was offset—and, by Saturday, more than offset—by occasional or new readers coming to the Times’ website that day for its politics coverage.
- The Study Was Way Too Short appears to be the common refrain echoed among media types about the experiment. As Fishbowl NY's Chris O'Shea notes:
It only measured 12 days before and 12 after the paywall went into effect. Maybe if this study was done after a year it’d have some merit, but 12 days?....Also, that traffic decline the study mentions? Only 15 percent. Not exactly earth shattering. Let’s hold off on declaring anything definitive about the Times’ paywall until some time – at least six months – goes by.