Following the trend started by some other publications, The Times of London has recently started the practice of using a paywall to prevent readers from accessing their online content for free.
The paywall system was introduced a few weeks ago, and it was obviously expected that the number of readers visiting the site would diminish. A recent post by Robin Goad, the Research Director of Hitwise U.K. has confirmed this happened.
The study, which they conducted, shows that while The Times market share a few weeks prior to the introduction of the paywall was 4.29% it fell to as low as 1.435% of all the News and Media – Print traffic, which means that it dropped to a third of their earlier market share.
While the drop in just a few weeks is indeed pretty steep, the market share in the next week, (week ended 17th July 2010) was 1.37%. This reading, though even lower that the previous one, indicates that the rate of fall has started to reduce, which is a good sign for the publisher.
A further indicator that The Times may soon see a recovery in their market share is the fact that visitors are spending between 21/2 to 3 minutes per visit on the site.
However, The Times has yet another hurdle to cross. They have provided an introductory offer of ₤1 for the first 30 days to their readers. It remains to be seen, if readers will continue to visit the site once that offer period is over, or if they will simply switch loyalties and move on to some other site, which offers its services for free.
The Financial Times, which has also started a paywall system, before The Times, has already received praise for the model which they have set up.
The Wall Street Journal has also started a paywall system, but their transition seems to have been less painful.
The probable reason for the different response between these publications, could be the fact that while The Times is a general information site, the other publications offer specialised services which may not be found so easily in other publications.