UPDATE 1-Times loses less than 90 pct of readers online

* Times and Sunday Times sites have 105,000 paying customers

* 100,000 print subscribers also activate digital accounts

* Nielsen says jury still out on success

(Adds analyst comment)

LONDON, Nov 2 (BestGrowthStock) – News Corp’s (NWSA.O: ) Times of
London has lost less than 90 percent of its online audience
since it started charging readers on the Web, fewer than it had
feared, it said on Tuesday.

The Times is the first major consumer newspaper to put its
online content behind a so-called paywall and the
three-month-old exercise is being closely watched by an industry
whose circulation and advertising revenues are in decline.

Asked on BBC radio whether the audience drop was greater or
less than the 90 percent it had considered likely, Times editor
James Harding replied: “It’s less than that.”

News International, the British newspaper arm of Rupert
Murdoch’s News Corp, said the new Times and Sunday Times sites
and Apple (AAPL.O: ) iPad app had attracted more than 105,000
paying customers so far.

A further 100,000 readers who subscribe to the print
editions and get the digital versions for free have activated
their digital accounts.

That compares with 189,000 paying subscribers that Pearson’s
(PSON.L: ) Financial Times reported for the third quarter, a 50
percent rise since the beginning of 2010 that was partly driven
by the launch of the iPad tablet computer.

“The industry is still very much in an exploratory phase on
paywalls and the jury is still out on their success. We expect
to see many more adaptations of the model,” said Matt Dodd of
leading media market-research firm Nielsen.

Like News Corp’s Wall Street Journal, the FT has always
charged for its online content, seen as indispensible to the
business community.

Subscribers are more valuable to advertisers than readers
who access online content for free, because they tend to be more
engaged and the publisher knows more about them, meaning a steep
decline in audience need not be financially detrimental.

News International’s Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks said:
“It is early days but renewal rates are encouraging and each of
our digital subscribers is more engaged and more valuable to us
than very many unique users of the previous model.”

Readers are charged 1 pound ($1.61) for a day or 2 pounds
for a week’s access to www.thetimes.co.uk and
www.thesundaytimes.co.uk. The app for the iPad tablet computer
costs 9.99 pounds per month.

The New York Times (NYT.N: ) plans to start charging for some
of its online content next year after readers exhaust a certain
amount of free articles.

“Various hybrid models — such as the FT’s ‘content walls’
and the New York Times’ ‘metered model’ — are likely to be
tried as newspaper publishers seek fuller data and feedback,”
said Dodd, who leads Nielsen’s research and analytics in Europe.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)

UPDATE 1-Times loses less than 90 pct of readers online