The Skyblu Blog
Caffeine-fuelled insights into the online world
The Times struggles to monetise its website
20 July 2010 by Rob James
According to estimates by The Guardian, The Times has driven away 90% of its readers in one fell swoop. It’s likely that they are making even less money from their website now than they would have been if they’d left it free to read and included ads on the site.
It’s very odd that The Times chose such an obstructive method to attempt to monetise its website. It’s a system that has been implemented by a number of businesses in the past, such as the Financial Times and MoneyWeek, as well as the Wall Street Journal, but they are all specialist publications whose subscribers read out of necessity more than out of interest – but who needs to read The Times when you can get the same news for free from thousands of other sources online?
So, what else could The Times have done instead of forcing its readers to pay? Well, there are plenty of advertising options that could have been implemented. Many popular news websites make millions of pounds a month through simple advertising, and leave their content free for anyone to read. Other websites that employ the use of paywalls generally leave some of their content accessible so that casual readers can still access a great deal of content for free. For example, MoneyWeek leaves around 40% of its content available free of charge, with payment being necessary for in-depth articles and cover stories.
It seems unlikely that The Times will maintain its paywall for very long in its current state, as many other newspapers which have tried to implement paywalls in the past tended to drop them very quickly. For instance, The New York Times abandoned its subscription program because it was only earning $10 million from its subscribers, and far more money would have been made from ad revenue if all the people who dropped out at the paywall had entered the site for free instead.
For now though, The Times continues to charge its readers for news that is easily available for free in thousands of places, which seems to be a very outdated and inefficient business model.