News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch's bullish stance on pay walls may have taken another knock this week, after comScore reported that visits to Times Online have halved.
The figures show that the number of unique visitors to The Times web site dropped from 2.79 million in May to 1.61 million in July.
Page views fell from 29 million in May to nine million in July, and readers are also spending less time on the site.
ComScore said that "dwell time" fell from 7.6 minutes in May to four minutes in July, suggesting that the iPad-friendly redesign is failing to inspire readers.
Murdoch is putting his faith in the iPad and other tablet devices to drive traffic to The Times and Sunday Times sites.
"It looks like Apple will sell around 15 million iPads this calendar year and more than 40 million by 2012," he said recently. "The iPad is just one of many tablet or slate computers in the pipeline. News Corp fully intends to be across all those platforms too."
However, despite the fall in the numbers of readers, Murdoch sees the pay wall as the saviour of high-quality journalism.
"It's going to be a success. Subscriber levels are strong. We are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet," he said earlier this month.
"Over the last 12 months I have led the charge to establish a new way for us to recover the investment we make in great journalism. The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free."
Since then, but before ComScore's numbers appeared, it had been suggested that Murdoch will launch a US publication pitched firmly at iPad users.
The Los Angeles Times was first to report that News Corp is planning an e-magazine pitched at younger, more tech savvy readers. No launch date has been confirmed, but it is likely to be a monthly subscription title.
Murdoch seems keen to exploit the internet, but has an uneasy relationship with the medium. The News Corp boss has accused Google of "taking news content for nothing", and has now taken issue with Skype.
Murdoch's BSkyB has challenged Skype over its trademark, which is apparently too similar to 'Sky'.
"The key contention is that the brands 'Sky' and 'Skype' will be considered confusingly similar by members of the public," a BSkyB spokesman told Reuters. "This was supported by consumer research conducted by Sky."
Such wrestles aside, it will be interesting to see what Murdoch does to tackle the fall in readers.
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