Congratulations to the New York Times, which has signed up more than 100,000 people to its new online paywall, according to Ad Age. I said a few weeks ago that I don’t think the paywall will last. And if I’m wrong, I’m happy to eat my words. But don’t think these early numbers spell success. As Ad Age’s Nat Ives points out, the number is meaningless without knowing how these people signed up, whether they’re committed to renewal (or just capitalizing on a cheap intro offer) and how the wall has affected overall traffic and ad revenue. And as Bill Grueskin noted recently on paidcontent.org, early positive results have happened before:
This happened with TimesSelect, the two-year-and-out effort to get people to pay to read opinion columns. It launched in September 2005, and within less than two months the company had signed up around 120,000 newly paying subscribers.
That growth flattened quickly, though; by May 2006, it had only 170,000 subscribers (plus about 280,000 print subscribers who registered for free access to the service). The Times ended the project in September 2007 with 227,000 digital-only users, discerning that there was far more to gain from ad revenue than subscriptions.