Times Expects To ‘Lose Plenty Of Users’, Gain Loyalty

The Times’ upcoming web charges are targeted at its most committed followers – the paper acknowledges the introduction will leave it with significantly fewer readers overall.

Times editor James Harding said in a webchat (pictured): “I think we will lose plenty of unique users, but we will grow the number of regular readers and, more important still, contributors to The Times. And I think we will attract a new kind of reader to The Times.

“It’s got to be the case that charging for content is going to make more economic sense than just giving it away.”

Times assistant editor Tom Whitwell says: “The focus is preparing to serve a small, paying audience. At the moment, about 30 to 40 percent of our traffic comes from search. We are assuming that drive-by traffic will fall significantly. If it doesn’t, we’ll make £2 billion pounds this year ;-).”

But the equation for The Times is – what it gains in pay-for income it loses in reach and influence.

Probably a minority of folk are likely to cough up £1 a day online in the same way they might hand it over at the newsagent. But, by price-cutting longer-term subscriptions, News International hopes to lock its most loyal readers in to a relationship. Let’s weigh up the pricepoints on offer…

— The Times paper @ £1 a day (and £1.50 Saturday) = £338pa
— Sunday Times paper @ £2 = £104pa
— TheTimes.co.uk and SundayTimes.co.uk @ £1 a day = £365pa
TheTimes.co.uk and SundayTimes.co.uk @ £2 a week = £104pa
Times and Sunday Times print sub (plus web sub) inc. Times+ = £288pa (with £120 discount from £408pa)
— Times+ with no print or web = £50pa

See how News International is making daily website access as expensive as… well, as buying the newspaper every day. Customers who prefer either medium stand to benefit by committing to periods of at least a week – the three-product annual package comes with a £77 annual saving on paying for either the paper or the web on a daily basis.

While that’s happening, the £1-a-day online charge is straightforward enough to be comprehensible to serendipitous readers – but will that translate in to paying, and how?

When the wall goes up, Times Online will soon realise who its best friends are.