'Variety,' 'Newsday': Pay Walls Mean Fewer Page Views
As Hollywood trade publication Variety has joined the select few publications with an online pay wall, it has seen page views drop more than 40%, according to Nielsen figures. The number of unique visitors has fallen a lesser 18%, but that could be attributable to Variety allowing users to view up to five articles for free.
Variety, which had previously abandoned charging for Web content, brought it back last December. And during that month -- where nine days were free -- page views for the Variety Online Group came in at 3.2 million. That figure fell to 1.9 million this past March, according to Nielsen data.
It's unclear if the drop in page views is in line with what Variety anticipated when it switched models. A representative declined comment, but said a briefing on how the new strategy is doing is coming.
Separately, Long Island-based Newsday, a city/suburban newspaper, has had a pay wall in place since late October, and is experiencing a much lower level of page views compared to its free days. But the figure under the new model has stabilized, according to Nielsen data.
Page views are key to determining ad revenues, since advertisers can be charged per amount viewed. Still, a drop in page views at Variety, owned by Reed Elsevier, is not an indication that ad revenues are down.
Variety may be able to garner higher rates if advertisers are willing to pay more to reach the potentially more upscale audience that pays the $250 annual fee. Also, it may be bringing in more subscriber dollars with the pay wall erected.
"The number of unique visitors to Variety will decline, but the people who remain on the site are our core audience," Variety President Neil Stiles said in a statement before the online charges were in effect. "These are ultimately the people we want to reach."
Variety charges the approximately $250 amount for print delivery and unlimited online access. The yearly fee for online access sans the publication is the same. The trade anticipated unique visitors would decline. And, according to Nielsen, there were 745,000 in December, which fell to 609,000 in March for an 18% drop.
One reason the figure may not have dropped further is that visitors can view five articles a month gratis until they bump against the pay wall.
In December 2008, when Variety was completely free online, there were 4.3 million page views and 1.4 million unique visitors. In January 2010 -- the first full month with a pay wall -- the figures were down 36% and 46%, respectively. Nielsen did change its methodology in mid-2009, so the results are not like-for-like and Nielsen says only to be "compared directionally."
As for Newsday, page views and unique visitors dropped significantly last November, the first full month with the pay wall in place, and figures continue to lag the free days. But over the first three months of this year, page views and unique visitors were about the same in January and March. There were 21 million page views at Newsday.com in January and 22 million in March. February, a slightly shorter month, had about 16 million, according to Nielsen.
Unique visitors had a similar pattern, with Nielsen data showing January and March about the same, and February down notably.
"Our strategy continues to be growing our local audience by providing free access to Newsday home delivery and Optimum Online customers," a newspaper representative said in a statement. "comScore's March New York DMA numbers, a measure that is more relevant to our strategy, show a 17.7% month-over-month increase in our local unique visitors."
Newsday.com is free to people who have the paper delivered or receive Optimum Online service. Newsday charges those without either $5 a week for Web access. In January, the New York Observer reported that a mere 35 people had signed up to pay to view the site.
Newsday and Optimum share the same parent in Cablevision.