Friday, March 26, 2010

Should I Follow The Times' Example?

More than 1,000 of you have responded to the poll below about paying for access to The Times & Sunday Times websites.

98% of you say that you access the websites.

But only 4% of you intend to pay to do so in future.

I can't seem to find how many absolute unique users The Times website has - they always seem to refer to page impressions or unique users. But let's, for argument's sake, say they have 2 million users. A four per cent take up would give them an annual revenue of £8.3 million.

Now, here's a thought. If I asked my readers to pay for reading this site and charged them half what The Times intends to, and four per cent of you decided to take me up on the offer, my annual income from this blog would be £270,000.

Don't worry, it's not going to happen, but it makes you think!

38 comments:

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

As I said here Iain, the market will decide the price of your content to some extent, but I think Murdoch is simply trying to protect his old business model and market.

The Purpleline said...

Iain you could also offer Gay Sex in Kings Cross and get a similar amount. Although you might have to transfer your political allegence to the Lib Dems or the Glasgow Labour party.

Hint Hint will you please start looking at the Labour party and Glasgow and tell CCHG to do the same.

The Fat Councillor said...

If we start paying, do you promise to stop banging on about politics and get down to some serious gossip mongering?

I would pay for that...

Gazza's UsefulTips and Blog said...

Fair comment, but even if people voluntarily donated 50p once a year you could make some sort of useful extra revenue for all your effort.

JamesW said...

No! This illustrates the problem though. If every website charges a pound a day, then no-one will be able to afford more than a couple. An incomplete list for me would be here, Guido, OH, BBC, Grauniad, Telegraph, and probably some links to stuff in the Times, Mail and Sun from the likes of Fark. That's almost a tenners worth already!

JB said...

Dec 3rd 2009
From The Economist print edition
More bad news for the embattled newspaper business


... fans of the Daily Telegraph, for example, the most popular quality daily paper, got just 8% of their online news from its website (see chart). They spent twice as much time visiting the BBC’s news website and more than twice as much reading other quality papers...

The survey also contained devastating news for those publishers hoping to co-ordinate attempts to charge. When Guardian readers were asked whether they would pay £2 a month to read their favourite paper online, 26% said yes. But if all newspapers charged? The proportion prepared to pay for the Guardian... fell to 16%. This seems odd, until one considers readers’ promiscuity. Faced with having to spend rather a lot to keep snacking from a wide variety of news sources, they protested...

Chris said...

Personally Iain, I found your site through referral. If I followed up a referral and found I had to pay to get access to an unknown entity I doubt I would bother. Better to have a wider "free-of-charge" audience to market other stuff to. Like you do....

John Linford said...

I'd subscribe to a micropayment system of a penny or two an article but I wouldn't pay a flat fee as is proposed by The Times. Especially not at £100+ a year!

Cronan said...

I'd be happy to pay half of what The Times will be charging if you provide half of the content they do, at half the frequency. ;-)

iCowboy said...

It'll be interesting to see the Times' page impressions *after* they begin charging. I suspect people will simply look elsewhere and their count will fall through the floor. After all, with the exception of the editorials and columnists, there isn't much on the Times that can't be found elsewhere for free.

So don't dream too much about hundreds of thousands rolling into your bank account ;)

BrianSJ said...

There is an outstanding piece by Clay Shirky http://is.gd/aZUPE thinking the unthinkable.

Well worth a good slow read.

Mr Murdoch, if you are here, do read it.

Lloyd B said...

Perhaps it would be a good idea to charge for comments. That way you could avoid threads being blocked up by needless comments such as this.

Misty said...

If you charged I suspect that "light blogging days due to meetings, etc" would not be tolerated to readily.

The Grim Reaper said...

iCowboy said "So don't dream too much about hundreds of thousands rolling into your bank account."

He doesn't need to - the newspaper reviews on Sky News have long proved a lucrative source of income for Iain. ;-)

Would I pay to read this blog? I'm honestly not sure. If I did, I'd prefer to pay a subscription fee per year.

Adolf Brown said...

There is a truely massive commercial opportunity here for competitor organisations or even new organisations. I do not think they have thought this out properly!

DespairingLiberal said...

I'm not convinced about the 4% figure - what does the Times/ST offer that isn't already well covered in free media sources? I suspect this policy will backfire and they will either close as websites or return to free operation before too long. Just another example of Murdoch/NI fundamentally misunderstanding the web market.

I would also question the comparison between page impressions (a figure always inflated for various reasons) and how many of those are credit-card wielding unique adult visitors.

Stephen Glenn said...

So I pay £1 a day for the Times as it is, if I wanted to quote from them in the blog I'd have to either cough up the occasion extra £1 a day or go to another free source. I'll alos not be linking to any subscriber only websites that has always been my policy on the rare occasions that I might I have forewarned readers.

I'll be looking for other source of information to hang my blogposts around from June.

stevetuff said...

The funny thing is that up until about say ten years ago i would buy The Times five days a week, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The Spectator every week, The New Statesman perhaps once a month, at least two monthly movie mags, a monthly, and occasionally weekly music publication plus two or three trade magazines.

Cover prices were lower then, but I would think easily I was spending £500 per year on printed media (£2,000 equivalent today?), and just accepted that's kind of what you did.
Today, because of the Internet I spend less than £20 per year. Now I am still spending that £2,000, so on the face of it can't see myself going back to paying for media.

And it's not just the money. It's the fact that we can read so many titles. I can scan American, Australian and French publications, as well as British, at will, all free. So subscriptions won't work.

But I wonder. Perhaps it's just because I'm old, but I will miss MSM if it goes. I don't want to get my news and opinion from a mix of BBC propaganda and blogs (sorry Iain). And I suspect I am not alone. It will take time, but it may just be that, if all the publications together institute proper subscription rates, people will turn back to the paying model over time. I hope so.

stevetuff said...

The funny thing is that up until about say ten years ago i would buy The Times five days a week, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The Spectator every week, The New Statesman perhaps once a month, at least two monthly movie mags, a monthly, and occasionally weekly music publication plus two or three trade magazines.

Cover prices were lower then, but I would think easily I was spending £500 per year on printed media (£2,000 equivalent today?), and just accepted that's kind of what you did.
Today, because of the Internet I spend less than £20 per year. Now I am still spending that £2,000, so on the face of it can't see myself going back to paying for media.

And it's not just the money. It's the fact that we can read so many titles. I can scan American, Australian and French publications, as well as British, at will, all free. So subscriptions won't work.

But I wonder. Perhaps it's just because I'm old, but I will miss MSM if it goes. I don't want to get my news and opinion from a mix of BBC propaganda and blogs (sorry Iain). And I suspect I am not alone. It will take time, but it may just be that, if all the publications together institute proper subscription rates, people will turn back to the paying model over time. I hope so.

Robin Horsley said...

There's a really established model for this in the financial markets. Lots of sites offer free access to company stocks and shares info which draws lots of regular readers to their sites, some of whom then subscribe to premium services that provide a greater level of detail - which funds the whole thing.

The basic model for monetising almost anything on the web is:

Offer something for free to generate traffic.

Offer to sell something to those people - which a proportion will buy.

It's like free software that you buy with limited functionality and then having used it for a bit you buy the chargeable upgrade - it's not radical.

Lots of people buy your Biteback output as a result of your references on your blog. Some people buy the stuff that you advertise.

This is another opportunity and it's part of what is going to be a big wave that will transform media content delivery over the next 5-10 years.

Looking forward to reading you (and paying you) on my Ipad soon!

Hythlodaeus said...

There are a few blogs (although as far as I know no politics based one) which do use a pay wall. I suppose they have an advantage of a very loyal userbase, but I get the feeling that it tends to turn off new users on the basis of "well, I can get the same elsewhere for free".

Paywalls on the internet are ridiculous, but they lack of success is not guaranteed by any means.

Paul Robinson said...

You may well feel professionally obliged to pay £104 pa for access to Times Online, but what if other online publications follow their lead? Your professional obligation to be well-read will might start to be expensive. I think that £270,000 you mentioned will look fairly tempting!!

cassandra said...

I ask the questions,

what is really going on in the world? Why are events unfolding as they do and who is manipulating those events and for what advantage?
The problem with the MSM(main stream media)is that they usually view the issues through a politicaly partisan lens, you get an opinion crafted to look like a story and it ends up missing vital elements, so we cannot judge a story in the round.
The so called tory papers give us one side and the leftist papers the other side but rarely do we get to see the whole issue and the mecahnisms at play in those stories and how it might affect us.
He said she said/six of one half a dozen of the other with Mad Mel on one side and David Iamabitch or Polly tallboy on the other.
The lazy hack at the MSM desk pulling second hand stories off the news wire services like reuters not bothering to check if the story is puff piece/planted story commisioned by vested interest groups like FoE/WWF/GP/IPCC/UEA/GISS or the political spinners that send fluff trash to their inside contacts for onward printing.
The MSM has become infected by selfish and short sighted partisan carping and the peddling of mindless trivia that fails to spot the larger more important reasons behind the issues and time after time all we get from the MSM is pre chewed bland and badly researched fluff.
The world today is being manipulated by people who prefer to stay in the shadows and pull the strings of others, the planted smear/puff piece replaces genuine enquiry and whole stories that affect our lives go untold.
We are still not being told the real reasons behind the recent economic meltdown and who lost and who gained, who manipulated the crash and why, who failed to spot the crash and who did spot the crash but were ignored!
The carbon trading scam, who is making millions, who is pushing the scam and where is their wealth hidden?
The new media is taking over from the old because the old is bogged down,tired and dishonest, we no longer trust the old to tell the truth.

The Grim Reaper said...

Lloyd B said "Perhaps it would be a good idea to charge for comments. That way you could avoid threads being blocked up by needless comments such as this."

If Guido Fawkes did that, he'd get about 6 comments per post instead of about the 6 million he gets now.

James WB said...

Yes Grim Reaper - but they might be 6 worth reading instead of the extremist and racist filth that currently fills his comment boxes.

JMB said...

I can't see them having two million users. It is going to be much less than that.

If Murdoch got his way and killed off the competition from the BBC then the price soon rise from £2 a week.

I would think most people want to look at several newspapers and don't want to pay for each. Perhaps there would be an opportunity for combined access to a range of newspapers for one fee though I think I still would not pay.

Darren Jones said...

On this same calculation Labour List could raise £6.20 a year!

Lloyd B said...

Maybe charge for actual phrases used.

5p for 'Prime Mentalist'
10p for 'ZaNu Liebour'
Top whack for any mention of Europe or Immigration.

If I had a pound for every time someone called Gordon Brown a wanker...

mike.withers said...

I would gladly pay if you promise to stop boring on about West Ham and stick to the politics

Sobers said...

Reading the comment threads is one of the major attractions for me on any blog with plenty of traffic. If you start charging, users will drop drastically, and threads would be pretty sparse in comments too. Boring! I'm not paying for that. It may surprise you to realise we don't all come here for your sparkling prose, its the community of commenters thats attracts some (many?) of us.

fesone said...

Phew!! You started to get me worried there.

cherami said...

If you do, it will be the beginning of the end of serious blogging.

cherami said...

If you do, it will be the beginning of the end of serious blogging.

trevorsden said...

You are the publisher Mr Dale - surely there is a massive market for a well designed and suitably opinionated on-line newspaper. The paper based crop seem wedded to their paper origins and not original enough

I say suitably opinionated since I think a newspaper has to come from somewhere and the online news gathering sites seem drab and boring.

Ed the Shred said...

£270k you say? Surely that is small change for you Iain? What with your prolific TV appearances and other media interests. :-)

The question really is how much your TV and other interests would be harmed if you started charging for your blog. I suspect that your blog, in part, plays a role in you getting the various TV slots.

But speaking of 'monitising' your blog, have you thought of carrying adverts? Don't get me wrong, I love the clean uncluttered advert free look of your blog. :-)

Bill Quango MP said...

If you buy the online then you get a code that gives you the paper from the newsagent for free.
And vice versa.

Same with the anual subscription.
PLUS - there are special offers only available to registered users.

Simples!


And agree with LLoyd B.
Make SIMPLES! a 30p charge.

simonh said...

An absolute unique visitor (the term Google analytics uses) and a unique user (in the sense the Times uses it) are one and the same. They both purport to count the number of individuals who arrive for the first time during the period in question (usually a month).

They are counted by the use of cookies but the rate of cookie deletion means that all such figures are exaggerated by a factor of 2.5 to three times. The Times quotes 20m monthly uniques but a safer figure is 7m max.

There is also the question of multiple devices. I visit your blog from home and work, thus count as two users rather than one so there is a further inflationary figure (if more than one person visits from the same machine, it works in the opposite direction, of course).

All in all, the monthly user figures that Google Analytics and other stats packages produce should be divided by at least 2.5 and possibly as much as five to get a true picture. Daily numbers are much more reliable, which is why newspapers in their ABCes have started to use these as the headline figure. The Times' daily figures are 1.2 million

Martin said...

Should you follow the Times model? What be read by halfwits only? OK.