Headlines elsewhere like ‘Times paywall sees traffic plummet‘ seem to suggest that the paywall recently installed by News International to charge for online content from their newspaper stable has been a business disaster. Yet despite a report last week from ComScore suggesting a 50 per cent drop in The Times visitors and prompting the doomy headlines, from a business perspective it may actually have been a very shrewd move.

ComScore‘s figures suggested the number of unique visitors to The Times web site dropped from 2.79 million in May to 1.61 million in July and that page views fell from 29 million in May to nine million in July as well as readers spending less time on the site. However, consider that first set of numbers again: Prior to the paywall, the site was getting 2.79 million users accessing the site for free. Now it has 1.61 million but all have paid a price to be there. On a figures basis 2.79 million of nothing is nothing but 1.61 million paying a £1 is a lot, lot more revenue.

News International’s introductory offer allowed 30 days access to both sites for £1 – users of which would have been included in ComScore’s initial figures. The normal subscription rate of £1 for 24 hours access or £2 for one week’s access and free to seven-day subscribers to the print editions of The Times and The Sunday Times might make the next set of figures different again but from an initial glance it appears that the paywall will provide News International with a strong revenue stream to help off-set the hefty costs it must incur running it’s large online presence.

As News International boss Rupert Murdoch said himself “We are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet”.