The New York Times‘ paywall has now been up for two weeks. What impact has it had on the popular website’s traffic? More importantly, is the paywall working as intended, or is it taking a bite out of The New York Times‘ revenues?
Experian Hitwise thinks it has the answer to the first question. The research and intelligence firm analyzed traffic data for NYTimes.com from before and after the paywall was erected. According to its data, traffic has declined overall by 5% to 15%.
Hitwise measured the change in total unique visitors between February 22 and March 5 as well as the number of visitors between March 29 and April 9. Overall, it was no contest: unique traffic has dropped since the paywall, with most declines in the 5% to 10% range.
The effects of the NYTimes.com paywall are far more pronounced on the website’s total pageviews, though. Using the same time period, Hitwise found that pageviews dropped between 11% and 30% after the paywall was erected. Pageviews typically exceeded 5.8 million before the paywall; after it went into effect, the site’s overall traffic has dropped under this number.
There are a couple of caveats to remember about the paywall before making any conclusions. First, The New York Times is currently running a promotion: $0.99 for the first four weeks of access. There could be a lot of people accessing NYTimes.com that won’t pay the normal $15 to $35 subscription fee. It’s also important to remember that the paywall doesn’t kick in until someone reads 20 articles a month (plus free visits from search and social media), which could explain why pageviews have dropped so much more than total visits.
So here’s the big question: Is NYT‘s paywall a success or a failure? When it comes to this big-picture question, we still don’t have enough information to make a conclusion. The paywall simply hasn’t been around long enough and we don’t have the financial data to see whether the paywall has made up for the loss in advertising revenue.
What do you think of the paywall? Is it the future of the news, or will sites that use a paywall destined for a slow death?