Almost 90% of the website’s online readership has gone compared to February, according to new figures compiled by rival newspaper The Guardian.
Data from web metrics company Experian Hitwise shows that traffic to The Times’ website has dropped from 15% of UK online newspaper traffic to just 4.1%. It also found that only 25.6% of users invited to register to view content actually signed up and proceeded to a Times web page.
Braben managing director Matt Bourn said of the results: 'I’m not surprised by the reported drop as this is pretty much in line with what normally occurs when a free site goes behind a paywall. The Times needs to continue to produce must-have content and market this content to the broader target audience of potential Times readers, often (ironically) through other media channels which are free.
'Alongside this, it should develop the Times community through as many different viable value-add options as possible to create strong retention and positive endorsement from the current subscribers. This can then serve to help attract new subscribers.'
Bourn denied the drop in online readership meant that PROs should not target the newspaper to place content in future. 'Despite the drop in readers, The Times remains a very important and influential media title to be considered as part of any PR campaign. One caveat though, if you are looking to place a piece of exclusive digital content with a media partner that you want to encourage people to link to and share as part of a social media strategy, you may need to consider at the moment whether The Times is the right site to do this with.'
Exclusive PRWeek research revealed earlier this month that the public wants online news to remain free of charge. A survey of 3,000 members of the public carried out for PRWeek by OnePoll found 93 per cent thought newspapers should use advertising, rather than a paywall, to make money online.