Folly – The Times newspaper to erect paywall from June

Folly – The Times newspaper to erect paywall from June

Incredibly, News International are pressing ahead with their plans to start charging for access to the Time newspaper website from June 2010. I’ve commented in the past that I regard such plans as folly – and now that I’ve seen their proposed pricing structure, £2 a week for access to the site, I think they are doubly so.

While £2 a week may not sound like much, consider this, in an online universe where virtually all other news  is free, it’s an awful lot.  Plus, from a purely logistical perspective, asking someone to go get their credit card out of their pocket mid online session is likely to lead to an incredibly high shopping cart abandonment rate. I guess their only hope is with corporate subscriptions – but then again they aren’t the Financial Times…

Of course I’m underestimating the ‘brand power’ and loyalty of Times readers – after all, James Harding, Editor of The Times said that he expects to only lose ‘a lot of passing traffic’ – traffic, that he goes on to explain in a hosted debate by The Guardian online, represents millions of unique but not frequent repeat visitors to the site…..!! So their expectations are that the remaining hundreds of thousands of ‘loyal’ visitors will dig deep into their pockets? Judging from my past experience as a media planning and buyer for Ptarmigan Media I think they are in for a surprise.

I have to confess, the naivety that they are demonstrating strikes me as incredible. This maybe explains why the newspaper industry is on its last legs while other sites like the Huffington Post are going from strength to strength. Let’s just hope Mr Murdoch has extremely deep pockets and that his operations aren’t run on a profit centre basis – if they are I wouldn’t like to be working for the Times online Sales Team come June 2010. I don’t imagine they’ll have as many billable impressions to sell….

My advice to any financial services marketers planning campaigns from June onwards on www.timesonline.co.uk:

  1. Get your media planning and buying agency to only confirm the booking subject to a minimum number of impressions delivered during a specific period of time
  2. Only ask for impressions delivered inside of the paywall – don’t be prepared to pay for any traffic that appears outside of this – any traffic outside of the paywall is after all highly transient and unlikely to visit the site again.
  3. Ensure that any advertising that is delivered on the subscription page is specifically excluded from any inventory counts – these pages will be seen a lot but aren’t likely to have a significant dwell time…
  4. Ask for a special rate – you are after all taking the site on unknown (in this new circumstance at least) – why should you pay the price for a change in Times advertising policy.

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