Free Online Content Brings in Readers and Revenue

2 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar
Now there's proof that tearing down walls and unlatching gates has its merits --in case you had your doubts. Nielsen recently released the latest ratings for online traffic for newspapers. The numbers indicate that "more people visited NYTimes.com than any other newspaper Web site in October." With more than 17.5 million unique monthly visitors, up from 14.6 million in September, The New York Times can attribute much of this success to their initiative to end paid subscription to TimesSelect, their exclusive "walled garden" which allowed subscribers access to "premium" columns and the paper's entire news archives. All this talk of surging numbers has Rupert Murdoch salivating. As he makes his bid to take over Dow Jones, it seems as if he has lofty goals of setting the content of the online Wall Street Journal free, much to the dismay of it's publisher. An article in the Economist outlines Murdoch's hopes that a free wsj.com "could attract 10m-15m regular readers from around the world." And based on numbers for the NYT, he might be correct. But of course, it's not just about how many people are reading the site. It's about the amount of online revenue that is generated. So much could be done with that money. Among other things, such revenue might just be able to save these thriving online newspapers' print counterparts. But just how much revenue does free online content bring in? Funny you should ask. A proud New York Times Company released a report that indicated that "advertising revenues for The New York Times Media Group increased 1.6%" and circulation revenues for the News Media Group increased 3.4% in October, as well. So what is the lesson here? To quote The Police, If you love somebody, set them free. Free, free, set them free. (Sorry!)For related news, see our recent article entitled "Web Ad Spending Jumps 21% for News Properties."