Latest numbers indicate New York Times traffic is flat since paywall

BuzzFeed | comScore
BuzzFeed reports that the U.K.’s Daily Mail has passed The New York Times as the largest online newspaper property in the world. A spokeswoman for the Times says this doesn’t mean that the Daily Mail is the largest single newspaper site, though, because its figure includes a recently added personal finance site. (I’ve reached out to comScore for more information.)

But the new figures show something else: The Times hasn’t lost reach since instituting its paywall on March 28, 2011. The Guardian reported in April 2011 that the Times had 61.96 million unique visitors worldwide in March, which was an increase of 41 percent from the previous month.

That means the Times had 44 million unique visitors worldwide in February; in December, that figure was 44.8 million, according to BuzzFeed. (Both outlets cited comScore as the source of their figures.)

Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications, confirmed these figures and said traffic is flat from December 2010 to December 2011. February’s 44 million uniques was the lowest in that time period; October’s 48.7 million was the highest (not including March’s spike, mostly driven by the Japanese tsunami). Those figures don’t include or other properties owned by the Times Co.

“We certainly haven’t seen the sorts of declines that people anticipated when we launched the paywall,” she said.

The Daily Mail’s claim of the top spot continues a trend. In March, it passed The Huffington Post as the second-largest “newspaper” site (it’s unclear why HuffPost was included in that category).

The Guardian reported then that the Daily Mail’s traffic gains were partly the result of its focus on U.S. news. Martin Clarke, editor and publisher of the Mail’s websites, tells BuzzFeed that traffic is growing because “we just do news that people want to read,” said Clarke.

The Daily Mail also has been criticized for lifting photos from other sites without permission and for rewriting others’ stories.

Here’s comScore’s list of newspaper sites with the most U.S. visitors (different than the worldwide figures above) in December 2011:

Website Uniques per month (000)
The New York Times Brand 30,585
USATODAY Sites 28,595
Tribune Newspapers 27,090
Advance Digital 18,132
Mail Online 16,686
Hearst Newspapers 13,810
McClatchy Corporation 12,879
MediaNews Group 12,698
Wall Street Journal Online 12,524
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated 6,631
TOPIX 6,539

Earlier: New York Times draws more “addicted” Web visitors than Huffington Post, which relies on “passers-by” (Poynter) | April 2011 ranking of top news sites in the U.S. (Poynter)

Correction: This post originally stated that October was the Times’ highest-traffic month since December 2010, but that didn’t include March, which saw unusually high traffic due to the Japanese tsunami. The post has updated to reflect that.

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  • Peter Tarr

    Thanks for the article, Steve. It’s certainly interesting to see those statistics for The New York Times. It seems their loyal readers have stayed pretty consistent but in terms of garnering new traffic, they seem to be at a standstill. Although the paywall didn’t necessarily impact their traffic negatively, perhaps there’s a different monetization method they could try that could garner more visitors. Have you ever heard of the affiliate marketing channel called cost-per-action (CPA)? This is actually a really great alternative to a paywall, and one type of CPA called content locking can be especially effective. When a person visits a website, they complete a brief survey, quiz or game before they are able to access the content. These surveys or games are sponsored by advertisers who then pay the website publisher for each one that is completed – ensuring all three parties benefit. 

    Peter Tarr –

  • robelroy

    DigiDave…nice post. I agree that the future of news will be changed forever by crowd sourcing, and yes, cache-clearers get just the same view that payers do. So my analogy is not perfect…but my math is. The flagship paper is now growing revenue and we cannot expect them to turn back. As for the unrealistic goal of getting 10% to pay, I might point out that this is exactly the percentage of paying customers that the WSJ has (and is still growing). Right now, you are correct- it really is a lot like a very large fund-raising drive, but if 5% pay an average of 240 dollars per year, that is about 480 million dollars per year in revenue- more like a bona fide corporate revenue stream. Fund raising drives have the same purpose as paid-content… You pay in order to get news.
    To merely speculate…. I think crowd sourcing you speak of will drive and reinvigorate the traditional 80% of newspaper revenues (but not anymore)- advertising. Obviously crowd sourcing can do amazing things here with Deals, branded events and a million other things. I tend to think that this is the future. Now it stands to reason that having a larger audience would pay dividends, and making the content free would facilitate that…but it has not shaken out like that thus far. Not at all- The HuffPo did 30M in revenues in 2010 and did 8M. This is peanuts. Granted, this really isn’t a crowd-sourced model as we probably envision it, and AOL sucks bad at everything it does, but it does show that digital advertising has been a dismal failure for news; even yahoo news, google news and much of NPR would have NO news were it not for the AP and UPI, which are aggregated old media- mostly newspapers.
    This game will take 20 years or more to play out. The future will be almost solely digital. It will be more audience engaged and will hopefully involve much crowd-sourcing. But that future just isn’t here yet in order to fund the level of news that we currently have. So the NYT is showing us how it is done. They report next week.

  • digidave

    There is some truth to what you say – but the analogy isn’t perfect. NPR also has people who pay (KQED is doing their pledge drive right now $12 a month) but for the rest of the public who don’t pledge – it’s still free. Those people who are getting KQED for free aren’t sitting on the grassy hill. In fact, KQED lets them into the concert for free.

    I think the same happens with the NYT. The NYT couldn’t charge everyone – because of the 40 million so far only 400,000 are paying (1%). Actually that 1% is not surprising at all.  It’s par for the course. And that’s my point to your initial comment. I think everyone knew they would get a small percentage of folks to pay. And they have. NPR can get a small percentage of folks to pay as well. There is nothing new in the PayWall. It’s really a pledge drive but the NYT doesn’t want to call it that.

    If they were to decide to NOT let everyone into the concert (I don’t think I’m on the grassy hill – I get as much content as I want from the same vantage point as paying concert goers) then I suspect they might get 10% AT BEST (that is really optimistic). You yourself admit that you would move on to something else as well.

    For me – all the Paywall confirms is that there is a small percentage of people that will donate to journalism. That is nothing new IMHO. See my thoughts here (start with “Subscription isn’t about Access”:

  • robelroy

    DigiDave…Correct! From the perspective of paywall jumping cache-clearers like you and I, it is entirely free. But let’s not fool ourselves- for example, when you and I sneak onto the grassy hill across from the stadium to watch the Def Leppard concert without paying, it is still not ‘free’ in an absolute sense… only to you and I. For the NYT, to the larger market, among whom 400,000 people payed about 70million dollars this year – it is hardly free. Worse yet, the last quarter was the first time in many years that the NYT flagship paper GREW revenue (see page 22 of the 10q). All the growth was in circulation, that is, the paywall. And it is still growing. So the paywall has been a runaway success and is the ONLY thing saving the flagship paper, as is obvious, unless we don’t acknowledge math or financial statements. So, yes, you and I shall come and go, but the genie is out of the bottle and the walls shall close in on us sooner or later. Just like the walls closed in at the Financial Times- 20 pages per month, then 15, then 8, now 4……..
    But you and I will move on and won’t really care when Def Leppard hires security to clear the hils. I mean, fuck that shitty band. But Def Leppard was never really playing FOR US anyways, and the NYT was never really writing for us news grazers. They wrote and played for their audience up front, middle aged and banging their balding heads with the song. And they will make money. Heck, they already are, for the first time in ages.

  • digidave

    But the New York Times still is free. In that year I visited the same as I did before the “paywall” (not the correct name). They made some money from advertising, sure. But since 44 million people aren’t paying – that means the VAST majority are getting the content for free. Your sarcasm is unwarranted.

  • robelroy

    Sorry, I was doing a parody of all the morons who treat “internet is free” like it is a law of gravity or thermodynamics. The NYT success shows what fools the Techstafarians are. I will work more one my humor.

  • Anonymous

    you said you were going to “prove” your argument, when all you did was make unsubstantiated statements supporting your claim.

  • Poynter

    @google-820e8e1819b43a788182694bbe8bda95:disqus comScore doesn’t release all of its figures publicly, in part because its clients pay for this data. This is all I have. If I get anything more, I’ll let you know.

    Steve Myers

  • robelroy

    This can’t be true; let me prove it to you. I subscribe to a vague internet-based ideology that says that everything on the web must be free. If the NYTimes is charging for their product, then there is no way that they are able to charge AND have a stable or growing internet audience. Therefore, this is just not happening. Nope, not happening; it’s impossible. QED.

  • Jean Levac

    Can you please do a post with comscores’ most world wide uniques/month? thanks