Some fag-packet sums on the Times paywalls

I am still trying to get my head around the Times’s and Sunday Times’s experiments with paywalls.

In its last valid ABCe figures, Times Online had about 1.2 million unique users a day.

If, as the Guardian and FT have suggested, about 10 per cent of users convert to paying £2 a week:

120,000 users x £2 x52 = £12,480,ooo a year.

Wired magazine quotes an Enders report which suggests Times Online made £15 million-£18 million in annual ad revenue before the paywall. Because the audience will drop so drastically, Wired guesses that the advertising take will fall to about a third of that after the paywall (I have no idea what they base this guess on, but keeping a third of your revenues with a tenth of the audience may also be optimistic).

So at the upper end of that scale, let’s say £6 million in advertising revenue on top of the £12.5 million in subscriptions. That makes £18.5 million – an increase of £500,000 in online revenues post-paywall.

That doesn’t seem like much of a gain and offsets a little more than two days’ reported losses at both titles (£240,000 per day).

Nor can it be too cheering for  journalists at both Times titles waiting to hear about the take-up of 80 voluntary redundancies, which closes today.

It gets worse — Paid Content quotes research by Enders Analysis saying the take-up could be as low as 2 per cent — making about £1 million a year. Even if the advertising revenues stayed the same as above, that would be an £11million loss.

It gets worse still — as I said yesterday, even the optimistic-looking 10 per cent will dwindle because stories are only discoverable from inside the paywall. There will be no Google search engine indexing. Surely this means that ad rates will also fall over time as the clicks to deep links fall off and are not replaced?

I pointed out yesterday how well-designed and enticing the new websites for both titles look — was it really beyond their capability to increase the uniques to the 30 million mark?

The Guardian’s website, which had 29.8 million uniques in February [2010] generated £25m in revenues last year [2009] (PaidContent)

The Timeses are trying to cut their combined £100 million editorial budget by 10 per cent, or £10 million. If they are really trying to protect the newspapers and their dwindling revenues with a paywall that limits the growth of online revenues, they could miss out on twice that in online revenue.

Can anyone explain the logic of that to me? Have I messed up the maths somehow?

Twitterverse getting shirty with Kirsty misses the twood for the twees

So did twitter really suffer a denial-of-service attack last night or was it just overwhelmed by massive interest from Newsnight viewer newbies?

Evan Williams, the Twitter chief executive, was interviewed by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight on Wednesday night. This post was delayed because my addled brain could not dredge up a Will Rogers quote and google was slow in forthcoming, but here it is at last:

“An ignorant person is one who doesn’t know what you have just found out.”

You would think I could have remembered that, given how many ignorant people I know. Trust a vaudevillain to put humourous wisdom in such simple words. Plus, fulfilling the most important criterion for any post-2008 pith, it amounts to fewer than 140 characters.

In a “but how will it make money?” crusade led by the Guardian, Charles Arthur, the paper’s technology editor, prefaced the headline of the interview’s transcript with “Read it and weep”. And from that objective standpoint, things went downhill: “Newsnight got the ‘first British TV interview’ with Twitter co-founder and chief executive Evan Williams. What did they ask him about? Demi Moore. Then it went downhill,” guardian/ wrote.

Lest I be accused of imbalance, my colleague Shane Richmond wrote ‘Is Newsnight a form of journalism?’

The truth is, I read both pieces and many tweets on the subject and did indeed almost weep. The gist seems to be that those few who are already aware of this service and care about its business model deserve priority over the unwashed masses who still get most of their news from the television and for whom all of this is still a discovery.

If James Dyson were on the show, would the host ask about the business plan for his new design of vacuum cleaner, or would she ask how it worked, what makes it different, does it suck more than previous models?

Which served the viewer better – the assumption of no previous knowledge or asking how Twitter will pay (probably a secret), a knowing wink to existing users (a bit naff) and the navel-gazing that only tech journos can muster (a bit off-putting to anyone but tech journos)?

Let he whose paper has not run rubbish Twitter celeb stories cast the first stone. Or perhaps not.

My own critique of Evan Williams? If anything, Mr Williams looked underprepared for basic questions that most of us have already heard answered online. That is not much of an excuse for not having his quips polished for his first British TV interview.

Maybe Mr Williams missed the wood for the trees – keep it simple is great advice, never more so than when explaining technology to the over-40s. The twitter fans, myself included, are not going to ditch it based on a deer-caught-in-the-headlines interview such as Wednesday’s. But the lacklustre defence of admittedly obvious attack questions is not going to encourage many over-40 newbies to try it out.

Maybe he was lulled into a false sense of security by the twitter faithful? Maybe he (like many of the twitter-obsessed) was expecting Miss Wark to have read the TechCrunch-leaked documents and grill him on Twitter’s business plan and the service’s scalability?

Scalability? What in the name of god is that, I can hear my mother ask. But if Demi Moore is on it … i might give it a look.

Can we chalk the @ev #newsnight debacle down to another MSM misunderstanding? Well, no. Expectations are too high if they demand that Miss Wark ask Mr Williams in-depth questions that assume an intimate knowledge of his product. She does not run a tech blog – she hosts a general news show. Cue basic questions assuming no previous knowledge – on behalf of the viewer, not necessarily of Miss Wark.

Do I know what YouTube is? Yes, but every time it crops up in copy, I will try to add “the video-sharing website” because I cannot smugly assume that everyone shares my earth-shattering knowledge of the internets.

Quintillian wrote: “We should not write so that it is possible for [the reader] to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us”.

That I have repeated the quote as by Harold Evans shows what I know, but those of us with the benefit of hyperlinks, near-instant feedback and, let’s face it, a much younger audience, would do well to remember those words.

After all, gents, the questions were nowhere near as offensive as a BBC presenter showing too much leg.

What happened to the multi- in UK multimedia?

Columbus Dispatch web-only series on death

I came across this web-only series on the wonderful Innovative Interactivity. The music and treatment is a little Hallmark-y for my tastes but I really like the execution  — it’s got video, audio slideshows, data and some slick transitions to show all elements on the screen at once.

Viewers can comment on the whole package and, in a very clever move, each individual interview has its own release date so it has become almost like an old-fashioned three-day newspaper special.

While the Telegraph is offering lots of interesting video, and the Guardian has podcasts and map mashups , I don’t know of any UK media outlet that has used embedded multimedia this effectively to tell and show a multi-layered story with accompanying data.

And the beauty is the idea is so transferrable to other themes.

Added bonus: it shows how effective mono pictures can be online.