The UK arm of the publishing group, which was rebranded last month as part of a wider business restructure, is stepping up efforts to better monetise its online audience. Darcey, who was appointed to lead the business last December, believes it is better for publishers to sacrifice reach and preserve sustainable profitability.
Speaking at today’s (2 July) Times CEO Summit he said it is “much better” to focus on an “engaged audience, who spend time with us” in favour of the “flitting around associated with free news websites”.
“When we sacrifice this so-called reach, what have we really lost?”, he added. “A long tail of passing trade, many from overseas, many popping in for only one article, referred by Google or a social media link, not even aware they are on a Times or a Sun website, wholly anonymous.
He argued that the “key insight” comes from looking at total paid sales. The Times has 140,000 paying subscribers, mainly on tablet. “And on this basis the Times is ahead of 2010, and there are very few titles that can boast that record in recent years”, Darcey said. .
The comments come a month before the Sun goes behind a paywall, based on a model uses by sister title’s Times+ package.
Darcey added: “If there is anything that is odd, it is quite how long the idea persisted in some quarters that it was possible to ask one set of people to keep paying – for printed news – while at the same time giving precisely the same content away for free to others, in the hope that the first group wouldn’t notice, or at least wouldn’t react.
“Seems pretty silly when put like that, and many publishers are moving away from that sort of idea. To those who are holding out, I wish them the best of luck.”
News International officially splits in two yesterday (1 July) with its entertainment and publishing divisions now being run as separately listed companies.