Once seen as the angel of death for the online business of the New York Times, the recently launched paywall has officially seen revenue from over 100,000 paying subscribers. At first glance, this is fairly promising.
What remains to be seen; however, are the effects of time. First of all, this was a promotional period. Numbers indicating how many readers renewed after its end have yet to be seen or processed. Second, the Times has a global audience of millions and it’s quite easy to assume that many of these initial 100,000 are among its most loyal; those that simply can’t imagine starting their mornings without it.
The proof of the program’s success or failure will come in future quarters as data surrounding recurring subscriptions and penetration into new markets and new subscribers becomes available. Still, the initial data is hard to argue. Revenues from digital media climbed $5.5 million to $95.9 million; a full seventeen percent of the company’s overall revenue for Q1 of 2011. Ad revenue shot up $3.6 million from its previous $80 million.
The battle over paid versus free online news content is far from over and media companies are constantly searching for new ways to monetize their sites. It has to be an incredible shock to an industry who, for so long, counted on your quarters being dropped into their machines on the street corner and checks being written to neighborhood paper boy. For the time being; however, it would seem that the Times is onto something.
The ultimate test will be in retained advertisers. Although it is a global powerhouse, The New York Times is still a regional newspaper with regional and small business advertisers. These businesses will want to ensure that their ads are being seen by the largest number of people possible and part of that is deciding whether they want to be seen by all New Yorkers or just those that subscribe, in one way or another, to the Times.