Times Online focuses on quality

I’ve just returned from holiday and have been catching up on all of the public relations gossip. The Times recently published the results of what has happened to its website since it became paid for. PR Week reports that traffic to the website has dropped by just under one third.

I agree with The Times Digital Director Gurtej Sandhu who says that the numbers are not surprising. In fact I am pleasantly surprised that the readership has only dropped by a third. I guess it shows how loyal Times readers are and how good the content is.

To bring more online readers back The Times is focusing on ‘multidimensional’ content rather than ‘exclusivity’. Sandhu says that they are no longer as focused on page impressions as much as the level of engagement the new site has with subscribers. Quality rather than quantity seems to be the name of the game here.

I wonder if there’s going to be a catch 22 situation created by paying to access online news portals for information that was once free? Money is made through advertisers and if readership numbers are down, they may go to competitive free websites. However, you could argue that if website like The Times can truly prove a higher level of targeted engagement with a quality audience that the reverse may happen. This will require much more detailed measurement of behavioural and demographic statistics than most websites can currently provide, but if it can be done then PR and advertising people can be more assured that their content is seen by exactly the right eyes. The Times is an excellent guinea pig to see how this new approach evolves and if it can indeed survive and flourish. Watch this space!

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