Despite reports that the Times of London’s online paywall has triggered an exodus of readers and advertisers from the paper’s website, Times assistant online editor Tom Whitwell and digital director Gurtej Sandhu said they were “happy” with the number of people who had signed up for the paid online model and would release numbers soon.
Emma Heald of Editors Weblog caught their remarks at a recent World Editors Forum luncheon:
The mentality of a paid site is different to that of one supported by advertising, Whitwell explained. “You have to think about the user. What we want at the end of the month is for someone to renew their subscription and come back.” The focus is on providing subscribers with a quality product, rather than trying to catch casual readers. There is still advertising on the paid site, but the balance is leaning more towards editorial.
Sandhu defended the paper’s thinking against those who say that the Times is trying to “put the genie back in the bottle.” He argues that “the definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result:” free online content is not working and it’s time to try something else.
The Times of London, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch/News Corp’s News International, implemented the paywall in May. Since then, it has reportedly lost 90% of its online readership.
The sharp drop in traffic was expected, of course, and The Times seems intent on giving the paywall time to succeed.
“We will give this as much time as is required,” Sandhu said.
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