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Most Americans Unwilling to Pay for Online News

Here is a very interesting and new report from Adweek/Harris poll that shows American’s are unwilling to pay for online news content. Pretty interesting from a content monetization stand point. This could change the thinking of how to monetize news content in the digital age. I wonder if there is a parralell with Europe and Asia. Hmmm.


Most Americans Unwilling to Pay for Online News

Harris Poll finds number is even lower than 15 months ago

05/02/2011 | Truman Lewis | ConsumerAffairs.com

Newspapers and other traditional media outlets have spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to sock their online readers, who they perceive are getting a free ride when they read online news content.

But the latest Adweek/Harris finds a large majority of Americans (80%) say they are willing to pay exactly “nothing” to read a daily newspaper online. Of the one in five who would pay, 14% said they would pay between $1 and $10 per month while very few said that they would be willing to pay between $11 and $20 (4%) or more than $20 per month (2%).

The New York Times recently put up a paywall, charging online readers who view over 20 articles per month.

But while online paywalls are becoming more common, fewer people say they would be willing to pay to read content online now, than said so in late 2009 — 20% say they would be willing to pay for a daily newspaper’s content online today, compared to 23% who said so in December 2009.

Other findings of the recent poll include:

  • Younger adults are more likely than those older to pay for a daily newspaper’s content online — over a quarter of adults aged 18-34 say they would (26%) compared to between 15% and 18% of all other age groups;
  • Men are more willing to pay than women are — a quarter of men say they would (25%) with 18% saying they would pay between $1 and $10 per month, while only 15% of women say they would pay anything to read a daily newspaper’s content online; and,
  • The more education a person has the more likely they are to be willing to pay to read a daily newspaper’s content online — over a quarter of college graduates say they would pay (28%) compared to one in five people who have attended some college (19%) and just 15% who have not attended any college at all.

So what?

Currently several major publications charge readers for their content online including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and most recently The New York Times.

Unfortunately it seems that as these companies are adapting to a business environment increasingly dominated by the Internet, their readers are slower to embrace, or are resistant to, certain changes, especially when it comes to paying for something that has been free for so long.

This raises several questions and areas for more research, including: how many Americans rely on the Internet for their news content, how particular are Americans about what publication or source they go to for their news, and, how do people think that media companies with large online presences should pay for the work that they do.

“How much, if anything, would you be willing to pay per month in order to read a daily newspaper’s content online?”
Base: All U.S. adults
Total Dec. 2009 Total Age Gender Education
18-34 35-44 45-54 55+ Male Female H.S. or less Some college College grad +
% % % % % % % % % % %
Willing to pay (NET) 23 20 26 18 15 17 25 15 15 19 28
  More than $20 1 2 3 2 1 1 3 1 1 1 3
  $11-$20 4 4 6 2 4 3 5 3 3 3 5
  $1-$10 19 14 17 14 11 13 18 11 10 15 20
Nothing 77 80 74 82 85 83 75 85 85 81 72
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding


This Adweek/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 29 and 31, 2011 among 2,105 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


Written by David Frederick

May 3, 2011 at 1:28 PM

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