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On the subject of Paywall

Matt

February 24th, 2011.

How does a paywall change your link acquisition rate?

The current trend of Newspaper sites to publish their content behind paywalls seems to be gathering speed. The recent Google announcement of its OnePass payment system can only increase the process by making payment technology available to a wider audience.

I thought it would be interesting to look to see how the move to paywalls has affected the news sites backlink acquisition rates.

So far the main newspapers that have added Paywalls have been,

  • The Financial Times – 2002
  • Moneyweek – 2005
  • The Times and The Sunday Times – April 2010
  • The News Of The World – November 2010
  • The Telegraph is set to add a paywall in September 2011

Taking the two most recent examples of The Time and The News Of The World, and using the excellent Majestic SEO graph functionality we are able to see changes on their backlink acquisition rates.

We can see clearly from the graph above that following the addition of the paywall in November 2010 over the next two months inbound links to The News Of The World fell by more than 50%


Similar, but less dramatic results for The Times. This is slightly more confusing as the paywall coincided with a domain change from timesonline.co.uk to thetimes.co.uk. We can see clearly that link gains to the old URL start to decline without the new domain ever really gaining links as a comparative rate.

Where I see some really interesting data is in the rate of acquisition for competitors sites who chose not to implement a paywall. A close online and offline competitor to both The Times and NOTW is The Daily Mail.

Their acquisition rate starts to climb sharply from the date The Times paywall goes live, and their highest ever month coincides with the NOTW adding their paywall. It’ll be interesting to see if the following two low months, December and January are a result of incomplete link data or some other trend.

It’s an interesting theory to see of the final few content producers within a market start to perform far better in terms of finance and popularity than those that eventually choose to follow the paywall route.

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