Times uses Olympics to boost paywall subscribers…by removing the paywall

The Times’ paywall was the first to go up on a UK paper, and since being in place has fallen over on the odd occasions – seemingly by mistake. That was until the Queen had been on the throne for 60 years.

During the Jubilee weekend, a time when the majority of the British public chose to watch the Diamond Jubilee celebrations from the comfort and warmth of their own homes, someone at The Times though it was a good time to drop the paywall. This was an effort to attract un-paying eyeballs and, hopefully, generate a few more paying subscribers.

Times paywall olympics

And it sort of worked. Some 6,000 people registered for The Times or Sunday Times sites over thw weekend according to Media Week. These 6,000 will now be hit up by marketing in an effort to boost subscription numbers.

Bosses at The Times must have been pleased with this number, as the paper is now planning to drop the paywall again during the London 2012 Olympics – presumably thinking the same target audience that was glued to their TV will be stuck in offices during the games and sneaking a look online whenever they can.  However, the paywall will only be down for two or three days during the games, likely around the more prominent events.

Does this mean the paywall model will change following the Olympics, as some suggest? Probably not. As an early foray into the world of paid content it seems to have gone okay. Using increased interest in mass appeal events is more of a marketing evolution than it is a revolution in business model. It’s more likely we’ll see the paywall drop temporally in future around similar scale events – provided there is a consistent small boost in subscriber numbers when it does.

It’s not bad timing by the paper for another reason. A number of London tube stations are being fitted with Wifi in advance of the games, which will be free initially. The first stations are already online at King’s Cross and Warren Street. So those heading to the games, as well as London commuters, may stumble through the paywall in their pre-event browsing.


The Times shifts a social media brick

The Times and Sunday Times, the papers that led the pro-paywall charge in the UK, are about to lift a few of their upper most bricks and let social media peak through their virtual partitions.

times sunday times paywall

Speaking at the Digital Content Monetisation Europe conference this week Nick Bell, News International digital product director, told Paid Content:

“Sharing, within the Wapping headquarters, has been a hotly-debated topic…Over the next six months, you will see us rewarding our paying subscribers with the ability to share amongst their network. That’s going to be an interesting piece for us. If they want to share content with their direct friends, then we’re going to enable that.”

Interesting is a darn good word for it. Back when the paywall first went up, I had a few thoughts on the future value of The Times for PRs. Most significantly, was there still value in running an exclusive with The Times compared with say The Telegraph or even the slightly-less-restricted FT. The erection of a paywall locks an exclusive story behind The Times’ wall and seriously limits potential online spread.

The idea of sharing articles on social media changes that. In fact, there’s an argument it increases the value of an exclusive, as the supposedly more engaged paying readership are more likely to read and share an article.

That value does, to a degree, rely on sharing options being free – which is not a forgone conclusion as yet. Bell also told the conference:

“They [readers] want to have a level playing field – if they are paying for content, then other people are also paying for content…Where we do want to add value and we see an opportunity is allowing people to share content with their friends. How we do that is yet to be finalised, but we do think there is value if they can share content with their friends and family.”

So there’s definitely value in it, which means there could be value for PRs. Once they sort out the CPT (cost per Tweet).

The Sun Shines on Newton

After speculating on the future of the Sunday paper market yesterday, there’s a bit more fuel for the fire started by the News of the World closure.

the sunday sun

Victoria Newton, former deputy editor at NOTW, has rejoined News International, taking up the no.3 editorial post at The Sun newspaper.

According to The Guardian, she has been working out of The Sun’s office since the demise of NOTW – and her new role includes responsibility for editing the Saturday edition of The Sun. She’s still in with a shot at editing a future Sunday Sun, with the paper stating “She has been tipped to be editor of a Sunday edition of the Sun, although News International is understood to have shelved plans to launch a replacement for the News of the World until early 2012”.

So we may be one step closer to The Sun on Sunday, and Newton one step closer to working every weekend.

A Barometer on the Sunday Paper Market

Since the closure of the News of the World over the phone hacking scandal, the Sunday newspaper racket “doesn’t have enough competition [or] enough alternatives”. That’s according to Sir Martin Sorrell, chief exec at WPP.

NOTW last cover

Sir Martin told The Guardian today he is keen for News International to launch a Sunday version of The Sun newspaper to plug the gap left by NOTW’s closure. Without the default Sunday tabloid, he believes the Sunday paper market, and therefore his own media buying empire, is suffering from a lack of choice. “News of the World falling out of the bed has given opportunities to others, that is clear…[But] it doesn’t help the Sunday market.”

It has, in fact, helped some of the paper’s rivals boost their circulation, albeit temporary. The Mail on Sunday was the biggest benefactor, reaching a peak of 2.4 million sales, up from 1.9 before the closure. However, this has started to falter – sitting at just under 2 million at present.

This may have put pay to the rumours around a down market version of the Mail on Sunday launching in the wake of the NOTW closure. Even if this never materialises, it seems more than likely ‘The Sunday Sun’ or the like will be hitting the news stands in the not too distant future to fill the apparent void. So Sir Martin should be getting his Sunday fix soon enough.