The verdict: We expected worse.
According to a study done by Experian, overall visits fell between 5 and 15 per cent during the first 12 days after the implementation when compared with the 12 days prior.
Traffic actually jumped 7 per cent on April 7.
By comparison, Gawker Media’s unique visitors are down more than a quarter since the much-maligned redesign, although Nick Denton keeps insisting it will bounce back once the search rankings are restored.
Page views at NYTimes.com are not faring as well. They dropped between 11 and 30 per cent every day.
Now, a couple caveats.
The sample size is very small. Less than two weeks is not enough time to reach any broad conclusions, but it does provide some indication of the paywall’s effect. Additionally, traffic to NYTimes.com is at least partially event-driven, and the period before the wall went live was full of news. Strong traffic should be expected. (Then again, the 12 days afterward also had a couple significant events. The potential government shutdown drove the impressive performance on April 7).
Finally, the percentage of traffic coming from search engines and social networking sites has remained essentially the same, meaning people are not using those as a workaround to avoid the 20-article per month limit. Given that Lincoln offered almost everyone we know free access to the website, we are not exactly surprised.