Although no official numbers have been released by Times and Sunday Times owner News International, audience research company Nielsen has estimated that an average of 362,000 UK web users went behind the papers' paywalls between July and September, reported the Guardian.
Nielsen estimates that 1.78 million monthly unique visitors from the UK went to the two papers' homepages, meaning that of these, just over one-fifth are going on to access subscription content, the Guardian added. In the three months until June 2010, the traffic to the Times Online site, predecessor to TheTimes.co.uk and SundayTimes.co.uk, was just over 3 million.
Print subscribers for the Times and Sunday Times have free access to the websites: the Times has 107,000 subscribers and the Sunday Times 112,000, the Guardian noted. So it is unclear how many people are paying for an online subscription only.
The numbers do suggest, however, that traffic going through to individual stories has fallen by just over 88% since the paywall was implemented. This is in line with previous reports of News International's expectations.
The News of the World, another of Rupert Murdoch's UK papers, has also just gone behind a paywall online and presumably the Sun will be next. The News International titles have adopted completely paywalls, making all content past the homepage inaccessible to non-subscribers, unlike other publications such as the Financial Times and soon the New York Times, which have chosen so-called 'metered models.'
Will the value of the smaller number of loyal dedicated readers make up, both in principle and financially, for the loss of so many visitors to the sites?