Friday, July 30, 2010

Gasta tech news: Hitwise Europe

Government Budget sparks surge in tax and benefit searches

On 22 June 2010 the new Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered an Emergency Budget aimed at reducing the British deficit. The key themes of the Budget were to increase taxes and freeze benefits, including a rise in VAT from 17.5% to 20%, a rise in capital gains tax for high earners and a three year freeze on child benefits.

Given the importance of the Budget to household finances in the UK, it wasn't a big surprise to learn that the Budget fuelled consumer searches immediately after the Chancellor's announcement. On the day of Mr Osborne's speech, 1 in every 179 searches in the UK was related to the budget.

The two principle areas of search for UK internet users were for taxes and benefits. Searches for term variations of 'government benefits' doubled in the week of the Emergency Budget but despite this spike, benefit-related searches actually decreased this quarter compared to the same time last year.

Searches for taxes on the other hand increased by 11.5% for the quarter ending June 2010 compared with the previous quarter (ending March 2010). In comparison with the same quarter in 2009, tax-related searches increased by 28%.

As one of the main features of Mr Osborne's Emergency Budget, 'capital gains tax' was the most prominent tax-related search term of the quarter. Council tax and VAT were also popular search terms followed by income tax and national insurance.

Find out more about the Hitwise Financial Services Quarterly Review.

With the unveiling in June of the Universal theme park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the movie trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the release of Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, it's fair to say that Harry Potter fever is casting a spell over online audiences again.

Of the 32 million distinct search terms that UK internet users typed into search engines over June, nearly 16,500 of them contained the term 'harry potter', meaning 1 in every 2,000 search terms was Harry Potter-related. Such was the popularity of the fantastic boy wizard that 'harry potter' was a more popular search term than 'ipad', the second most popular Apple iPad related search term.

These three Harry Potter events accounted for the majority of the search traffic and search terms. Of the top 20 Harry Potter-related search terms, five were related to the new theme park in Orlando, four were related to the Lego game and three were related to the new movie.

Despite having the fewest search terms, search traffic for the seventh Harry Potter movie was the highest in volume terms, accounting for over 8% of Harry Potter searches. Searches for the Universal theme park accounted for over 5.7% and the new Lego game took 3.8% of the market share of related searches.

Times Paywall traffic loss less than expected
The Times' recent controversial move to take their content behind a paywall and charge online consumers to read their content has attracted a lot of attention. As the first general news content provider to charge for its online content, there has been ample speculation about consumers deserting The Times in favour of free online content.

Since the paywall was erected, The Times has lost two thirds of its market share of visits. In the weeks before the paywall went up, received an average of 4.29% of all visits to the News and Media - Print category. By the week ending 10/07/2010, The Times' market share of visits had dropped to 1.43%, just 33% of where it had been five weeks previously.

The latest data for the week ending 17/07/2010 shows that The Times' market share of visits has dropped off further still to account for 1.37% of the News and Media - Print category. The rate of decline is slowing however and the data suggests traffic to The Times' website is stabilising.

Despite the decline in traffic, The Times' website is still ranked higher than the Financial Times, its nearest competitor in the pay wall market. The FT has received deserved praise for its financial model, with one journalist suggesting they had "unlocked the secret of eternal profitability". If The Times can match that feat with its paywall then the exercise has been a success.

Time will tell if The Times loses further internet traffic and when the introductory offer of "£1 for the first 30 days" expires perhaps consumers will search for their news content from other providers. So far though, The Times seems to be doing just fine. For now Mr Murdoch's gamble has paid off.

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