The New York Times Web site saw the total number of page views decline 24.4% from March to April following the introduction of the new online pay wall on March 28, according to comScore figures cited by Ad Age.
In proportional terms, this was a larger decrease than the overall dropoff of 7.5% for newspaper Web sites as a whole between the two months. (The general decline was attributed to a quieter news scene in April versus March, when major events in Japan and Libya captured the nation's attention.)
Measured against other newspaper Web sites, the NYT's share of total news traffic declined from 13% in March to 10.6% in April, suggesting that some casual readers probably migrated to other Web sites rather than pay the minimum monthly subscription fee of $15.
Some kind of post-pay-wall decline was anticipated by NYT executives, although it's unclear whether the month-over-month loss of nearly one-quarter of their page views will be viewed as an acceptable rate of attrition.
In early March, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. expressed confidence that the newspaper Web site would not suffer a "massive drop in traffic" without offering a quantitative definition.
The loss is somewhat larger than suggested by initial data from Experian Hitwise, which found total visits during the 12-day period following the pay-wall launch were down 5% to 15%, compared to the 12-day period before the launch. (That is except for April 8, when there was basically no change, and April 9, when there was a 7% increase.)
Averaging the percent changes, including the one instance of positive growth, the NYT Web site suffered an average audience loss of 7.5% in the 12-day period following the introduction of the pay wall.
However, these smaller initial losses may have reflected the tail end of higher-than-average news consumption in March, prolonged by the threatened government shutdown at the beginning of April. Former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz predicted in December of last year that the NYT's pay wall could take in about $100 million per year.