UK’s Sunday Times Preparing To Lose 90 Percent Of Traffic Behind Paywall?

Did The Sunday Times’ editor, in the UK, just admit his website’s about to lose nine tenths of its readers once charges are introduced?

From a taping of BBC Radio 4’s upcoming Media Show: Press Gazette: “(John) Witherow said ‘the vast majority of readers’ – perhaps more than 90 percent – were likely to be lost once the paywall went up next month.”

» Listen to the show here

Either that’s a specific expectation, or no-one yet knows exactly by how much traffic will shrink next month, but is expecting some kind of loss. Sounds like Witherow is channelling research from over the last year, like our PCUK/Harris poll, which found only five percent of news site users would pay to continue reading – a typical premium-to-free ratio.

On that basis, we project Sunday Times web users would fall from an average 1.22 million a day (ABCe: Feb 2010) to 61,354 following June – but, frankly, we don’t know that for sure either; presumably News International has done its own research of its own readers.

Daily The Times editor James Harding told readers in March: “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.” And Times assistant editor Tom Whitwell said: