One of the more irritating things about the internet is the apparent inability of the “old media” to “get it”.  Rupert Murdoch’s recently started to implement a program of changes to his News International newspaper websites.  I noticed the other day that access to pages at some of the UK newspaper sites required me to register for free.  I declined – The Times doesn’t exactly square with my political world view, and I figured that I’d later get harassed to begin paying.  Ars Technica has published an article on the immediate impact of the new access policy (UK paper requires free Web accounts; traffic plunges).

But, according to Hitwise’s numbers, simply adding the registration barrier has cut traffic to the site almost in half. Prior to the change, The Times was seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of four to five percent of the traffic going to the print news media category; after, it was hovering around two percent.

Hitwise also tracked where users were going once they hit the registration page. About a third stay on one of The Times’ properties, but many head straight to another news site (The Telegraph and The Guardian are big winners here), or simply to Google.

Ars Technica does note that the data depend on a single company’s analysis.  What’ll be more interesting to me will be the consequences of a shift to a payment mode.  Will this push more of the traffic towards the other broadsheets’ website?  And in the long-term, will the income compensate for loss of page views?

As an aside, over the last couple of years, AP has been moving to protect copyright on its news service.  How about the content of this news story (which you will note is copyright, so I’ll merely state the entire story is 14 words long.