Last Thursday, the New York Times released a bleak report that indicated weak revenues throughout the first quarter of 2013. But bleaker still is the dismal reporting from the paywall: this quarter saw the weakest growth from its digital subscriber base, raising just 5.6% to 676,000 total users.
The new subscriber base for the Times has slowed considerably year-over-year, but this is the first time that growth dipped under 10%.
This graph, developed by Quartz, shows the progression from the last year:
It doesn’t take a statistician to see that fewer and fewer readers are capitulating to the paywall that the Times has set for its content, and although it is easily one of the most successful publications that has adopted the practice, it’s still losing out. Does this mean that the paywall can hit a wall?
It’s a growing fear among newspapers that content is gradually decreasing in value, and for a while it appeared that the paywall would be the right way to get users into the system. However, it’s clear that the Times isn’t continuing the momentum it envisioned — and not many people are willing to go past their 10 free articles. Much to the chagrin of people who would prefer free news for all, the paywall is continuing to crumble over time as the program hits a critical mass of users. With fewer new subscriptions over time and continuing declines advertising revenue, it’s high time that the Times considers a new direction to take its digital program.
To its credit, the Times announced that very same day that it will begin new digital subscription and distribution practices to gain a wider audience. The name of the game is finding the news equivalent of the minimum viable product, and it’s apparent that users aren’t willing to shell out at least $195 to read the paper. How low the preeminent newspaper decides to go remains unanswered, yet there’s some solace in the idea that the wall might become a little more flexible.
What do you think of the Times‘ digital subscription results? Let us know in the comments.