Matthew Dodd, SVP, Research & Analytics, EMEA
As newspapers grapple with monetizing their content online, a recent Nielsen study found that one in five UK visitors to the Times of London and the Sunday Times websites are accessing content from behind the paywall introduced three months ago.
The research looked at pages within The Times’ website (all references to “The Times” include both The Times and Sunday Times) visited by UK individuals from home or work computers. Therefore, our figures don’t include visitors from outside the UK, visitors from mobile phones or UK people only visiting the site from internet cafés, airports or educational venues.
UK visitors were divided into two groups: (1) anyone visiting The Times website and (2) visitors accessing content behind the paywall. The latter includes people who paid online, those who get free online access as part of their print subscription and those who had a free trial.
The paywall went live on July 2nd, and after three months here’s what we’ve seen in the UK:
- Across Q2 (pre-paywall) the site averaged 3.10 million unique UK individuals (group 1) each month
- Across Q3 (post-paywall) it was 1.78 million – 58 percent the size of the Q2 audience
- A monthly average of 362,000 (20 percent of the Q3 audience) went behind the paywall (group 2 –– includes free triallists, those with free online access due to print subscription and those who paid online)
It was reported last year that the Times would rather have fewer, but paying, visitors and that people who visit via search engines are fleeting visitors, consequently, offering little value to potential Times advertisers. So, how do the 362,000 paywall visitors (which includes free triallists, those with free online access due to print subscription and those who paid online) compare in ‘value’ to the 3.10 million ‘total’ UK visitors in the quarter before?
- All registered paying customers, whether subscribing offline or online, provide a richer sales proposition which should command a higher premium because of the detailed personal opt-in data they provide
- A percentage of people within the 362,000 paid online – this group provides an extra revenue stream in their own right
- The ‘paywallers’ are more engaged – in Q3, they averaged 42 percent more pages per person a month (17) than the average Q2 visitor (12)
It’s not just behaviour that makes the paywall audience more valuable – they also tend to be more socially affluent in terms of income and geodemographics. Geodemographics are defined by “a classification of residential neighborhoods” – a segmentation by lifestyle, demographics and post code. These five ACORN categories, in descending order of social affluence, are “Wealthy Achievers” “Urban Prosperity”, “Comfortably Off”, “Moderate Means” and “Hard-Pressed”. The main differences include:
- Households in the £50K-£80K income range account for 29 percent of the paywall group compared to 25 percent of the Q2 total audience
- Households earning less than £20K account for 14 percent of the paywall group compared to 19 percent in Q2
- “Urban Prosperity” households account for 22 percent of the paywall group compared to 15 percent in Q2
- “Hard Pressed” households account for 5 percent of the paywall group compared to 11 percent in Q2
In summary, our analysis indicates that the current (Q3) UK Times online audience is around 58 percent the size of the Q2 audience before the paywall, and that paywall visitors (which includes free triallists, those with free online access due to print subscription and those who paid online) account for one in five current Times visitors. However, not only do those who sign up online generate extra subscription revenue, the entire registered paywall group are of particular value, as they offer a richer sales proposition through a combination of providing more details about themselves, being more engaged with the site and being more socially affluent than the previous audience.