The Times' paywall has cost the newspaper 86 per cent of its online audience according to new research, with 14 per cent signing up as subscribers.

The research, which was presented at the Westminster Media Forum this morning by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates CEO Mark Oliver, also suggests that 35 per cent of those who have stopped reading the Times online switched to using an alternative site, with the majority of those - 64 per cent - going over to the BBC.

The 14 per cent of subscribers were described as subscribers in some form, including print newspaper subscribers who have been given access to the new website and one-off subscriptions.

Among non-readers of the newspaper, who said that they used Times Online occasionally, 99 per cent stopped using the site.

News International director of strategy and product development Dominic Young defended the move, claiming that the paywall is "baffingly controversial right now" but that "the day will come when everyone is using them".

He also said that there was a danger the BBC could stifle competition: "The presence of something so large and well funded must affect people's decisions to enter the market. It is important that it isn't allowed to have a negative effect on emerging models."

Young claimed that despite the loss of readers, thetimes.co.uk is now "far more enjoyable to read" as a result of "not having to write headlines for robots".

"The experience for the humans got better", he added.

Dominic Young speaking at the Westminster Forum, courtesy of the Media Briefing:



Young's speech at the forum followed an introductory session dominated by the dispute between the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) and news aggregator Meltwater, with NLA commercial director Andrew Hughes appearing alongside Meltwater CEO Jørn Lyseggen on the panel.

Young spoke out in support of the NLA in his speech, claiming that copyright law should not serve the "exploiters rather than the investors".

"Some of the most successful companies online make money by reproducing content without paying a penny, without paying anything for the content which drives their whole business," he said.

"The rational thing to do is to make copyright more, not less effective ... When copyright is diluted, value is destroyed."

Last week the NLA won its case against Meltwater in the high court, which stated that the aggregator was obliged to pay contributions for its use of headlines and snippets from articles. "Content does not want to be free; Meltwater does not want to pay for it", said Hughes. He claimed that the aggregator had only sent 94,611 visits to newspaper websites in 2009 out of a total of billions.

"Newspapers will know what that means in terms of additional value, when Meltwater made perhaps £9.2 million in the same period," he told the audience.

Lyseggen told Journalism.co.uk that the issue was not the cost of the licencing, which Meltwater already pays to some newspapers including the FT, but the principle of the ruling. "We don't believe that the ruling is a proper interpretation of the UK copyright law," he said.

"The easiest thing for us would be to just role over and pass the fee on to our clients, but we don't think that the fees and the licencing agreement is fair, we don't think it is rooted in proper copyright law, at least the way we interpret the law. The reason why we are having this debate is because the fair use clause, that they have in the USA, is not applicable here."

Meltwater is planning to appeal the high court decision.

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