Times loses 1.2 million readers

The Times has lost 1.2 million UK readers across its daily and Sunday websites and almost halved the amount of time people spend on its sites in the past three months, according data released by ComScore.

In May, the free-to-access website Timesonline.co.uk attracted 2.79 million unique users in the UK, a slight increase on the level of the previous three months.

News International launched its separate Thetimes.co.uk and Thesundaytimes.co.uk websites on 25 May. It made registration compulsory and began redirecting users from the old site on 15 June and started charging for access to both sites on 2 July.

According to ComScore, the combined number of unique visitors to the two new sites has fallen to 1.61 million in July, from 2.22 million in June, and 2.79 million in May.

The average number of minutes each user spent on the site was 7.6 in May, 5.8 in June and 4 in July.

Page views have dropped from 29 million in May to 20 million in June and 9 million in July.

News International has run an introductory offer offering subscribers 30 days' access for £1. Its basic pricing is £1 for a day's access to The Times and The Sunday Times and £2 for a week, while subscribers to each newspaper get free access to the related website.

No indications have yet emerged from the company as to how many people have subscribed or how much revenue subscriptions have generated.

The figures relating to dwell time and page impressions on the site suggest the actual number of subscribers is much lower than the 1.6 million recorded by ComScore, with many people accessing the homepage and then moving on, adding to the overall unique users but drastically reducing average time spent on site.

News Int declined to comment on the ComScore figures but a spokeswoman said the response from advertisers was "positive" and a number had rebooked.

Earlier this month the newspapers' proprietor Rupert Murdoch claimed subscriber levels were "strong".

Currently the Financial Times and Murdoch's Wall Street Journal are the only other major papers to have paywalls in place.

Times users do not appear to have defected in large numbers to rival newspaper sites, though, with some also losing traffic over the summer months.

Mail Online rose from 8.74 million to 9 million uniques and Independent.co.uk rose from 3.33 million to 3.54 million.

But Telegraph Media Group dropped from 5.1 million in June to 4.26 million in July, while Guardian.co.uk dropped from 5.22 million to 4.65 million for the same period.

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