Behind the Times paywall: 46,154 readers a day
There have been several attempts to work out how many people are paying to access the Times website now its gone behind a paywall. My estimate is: 46,154 a day. Update: Tom Whitwell, assistant editor of the Times, says in the comments below that this figure "*spectacularly* underestimates" the actual number of visitors to the new site.
To work this out, I looked at how many people commented on two similar stories - one on the Times site (now paywalled) and one on the Guardian site. As you can see below, from screenshots captured at 1.45pm yesterday, the Times had had 4 comments in almost exactly 2 hours. The Guardian, on its similar but slightly later story, had had 117 comments in 90 minutes.
So if we take the number of readers of the Guardian's website - 1.8 million a day according to the most recent ABCes - multiply that by 4/117 (the ratio of comments on each story) and then multiply that by 90/120 (to allow for the fact that the Times story had been online longer) we get:
1,800,000 x (4/117) x (90/120) = 46,154 readers.
Some assumptions ...
Obviously, there are a bunch of assumptions built into here, so 46,154 has a somewhat spurious level of accuracy.
Propensity to comment
It's probably not true that the same proportion of readers comment on Times stories as Guardian ones. Finding comparable data was hard, however, as the Times seems to have removed the comments from all its old pre-paywall stories, so I couldn't see how many comments Times stories got pre-paywall compared to the Guardian.
Growth of comments over time
The number of comments probably doesn't grow in a linear way over time - but comparing stories after 90 minutes and 2 hours seems close enough.
The stories aren't exactly the same so may not have motivated people to comment in the same proportions.
But you'd be surprised how hard it is to find stories on newspaper sites with the same sort of angle published at the same sort of time and which allow comments. These were the most comparable stories I could find.
And it's not as if other Times stories have loads of comments, as this screenshot of the homepage at 5.10pm yesterday shows - after 3 hours there are only 4 comments about Joe Cole signing for Liverpool and just 6 comments after 3hrs 40 mins about Cameron calling the Lockerbie bomber's release "utterly wrong".
Comparing this figure with other estimates
15,000 paying subscribers
This figure of 46,154 is higher than the 15,000 paying subscribers since the paywall went up that Beehivecity claimed over the weekend - but you'd expect this as existing Times+ subscribers (ie those who joined Times+ before the paywall went up) can also access the site. They will count towards daily unique visitors - but won't count as extra paying subscribers.
I can't find a figure for Times+ subscribers, but I have this vague memory of about 60,000-odd of those. This story, from October 2009, claims Culture+, a version of TImes+, "has attracted 90,000 active members" (whatever "active members" means).
Either way, if you subscribe to The Times newspaper 7 days a week, you get free access to the websites. So all this would explain why there are more than 15,000 daily viewers of The Times paywalled sites - because people are getting it free as part of their other subscription packages.
The FT, on the other hand, reported at the weekend that:
Visits to The Times’ website have dropped by two-thirds in the weeks since News International, the media group controlled by Rupert Murdoch, began to implement its paywall strategy, according to new data.
However, the decline has been gentler than the 90 per cent fall in traffic some researchers expected.
Now, 1.2 million readers used Times Online a day according to the last ABCes before it pulled out - so if its traffic had dropped by 90% it would be looking at 120,000 a day.
But even this figures sound too high to me, knowing what else we know. And Hitwise's figures seem a bit odd - the last lot in particular failed to distinguish between home page traffic and those that gone any further beyond the paywall.
So what do you think? I wrote once that, if anyone can charge for content, Murdoch can. But maybe even he can't ...