According to a release from the group, the Times and Sunday Times have more than 105,000 "paid-for customers to date". This figures includes subscribers to the websites and to the Times' iPad app and Kindle editions. Around half of these are monthly subscribers, News International says, adding that "many of the rest" are either single copy or pay-as-you go sales.
There are an additional 100,000 joint digital and print subscribers, who have started a digital subscription since the launch of the new websites or iPad app launch.
The publisher is calculating a total paid audience figure of "close to 200,000", which it says allows for some duplication within digital customer sales. News International has not released figures for its digital revenues from the sites in today's announcement.
The Times and Sunday Times websites, which were launched in May, went behind a paywall in July. The sites charge £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription, though an introductory offer allows 30 days of access to both sites for £1. Access to the sites is also bundled with a seven-day print subscription to either title. The Sunday Times will launch an iPad app shortly, the publisher says in its release.
In April, News International suspended the monthly Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe) audit for the Times' then website, Times Online. In the Times' most recent audit, for February this year, the ABCe's figures suggest 20,418,256 monthly unique users to the Times' old site and 1,215,446 average daily unique browsers.
"We are excited by the progress that we have made in a very short space of time. In the few months since we launched these products, the total paid circulation of the times has grown. This reinforces our belief that our journalism is valuable and that customers will respond to investment, innovation and quality that are hallmarks of our titles and our company," says James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia, News Corporation, in the release.
There has been a great deal of speculation as to the audience behind the paywall since its launch on the papers' websites. Figures released in June by intelligence service Hitwise suggested that traffic to the new Times website had halved when compared with average traffic for May, when it was still operating as Times Online. Last month, Nielsen estimated that there were 362,000 UK visitors going beyond the paywall on the Times and Sunday Times websites, accessing the sites from home or work computers.
In an interview prior to launch in May, Sunday Times editor John Witherow said he expected the titles to "easily" lose 90 per cent of their online audience after the paywall was introduced.
Writing on his blog this morning, media commentator Roy Greenslade says the figures released "are just not transparent enough" to provide a clear picture or indication to other news organisations considering paywalls.
"I think, once we delve further into these figures, they will support the view that News Int's paywall experiment has, as expected, not created a sufficiently lucrative business model," he says.
paidContent:UK editor Robert Andrews estimates that the Times Newspapers' online audience is now smaller than its print circulation: "Stripping out occasional readers from search engines and the like in favour of loyal, active customers was exactly the point of the exercise; a massive audience drop-off was not only expected but sought. But to see the newspaper again become the more consumed of the two media options, by such a degree, is poignant.
"The big question, to us on the outside, is whether the reduction in advertising-exposed eyeballs associated with a traffic drop of this scale is, or will, being made up by paying customers."
In the most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the Times and Sunday Times print audiences, the ABC report shows a slight month-on-month decrease in daily circulation for the Sunday Times between July and August. Its average net circulation per effective publishing day in August was 1,066,240 according to the ABC, while the Times' was 494,205.
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