Study: Paid Content Is Growing On Us

The second annual Digital News Report found that more people are paying for online news, suggesting that readers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of paywalls.

More people are paying for digital news, according to a new industry survey.

Paywalls are sort of respectable again.

The 2013 Digital News Report, conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, found that roughly 10 percent of the 11,000 people surveyed globally paid for some form of online news this year, up by one-third from last year.

“This growth rate is heightened because of the relatively low base from which it started, but it is clear that there is significant growth in consumers who have paid for digital news in countries such as the U.K., Germany, and U.S.,” Robert G. Picard, director of research at the Reuters Institute, wrote in the report.

In all countries, younger readers (ages 25 to 34) were the most willing to pay for digital news, while those 55 and older were the least willing.

The survey also found that of those respondents who did not pay for digital news in the last year, 14 percent said they would likely pay in the future. That increases to 19 percent among people the report labeled as “news lovers” (as opposed to “daily briefers” and “casual users”). Respondents said their largest motivation for paying for news in the future was not being able to access suitable sources of online news for free.

“The changing attitude towards payment is occurring because it is no longer a novelty, and consumers are expecting more news providers to require payments in the future,” Picard wrote.

In the United States, more than 300 newspapers, including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, have introduced paywalls—that’s twice as many as at this time last year, the report noted.

“Paywalls are sort of respectable again,” said Jane McDonnell, executive director of the Online News Association. “When they were first introduced, people had an aversion to paying for something that they were already getting for free, but as the content has gotten better and as media companies learned how to make the best use of online with content, graphics, data, and multimedia, consumers are seeing the value.”

Not all paywall systems are equal, however. Publications should weigh individual variables such as advertising revenue and user traffic when setting up a paid system, wrote Picard, who predicts most newspapers and magazines will begin charging for digital content in the future in order to stay afloat.

“Companies and businesses are not going to be as afraid to introduce [paywalls] as they have been, McDonnell said.  “They’ll be confident that consumers will pay for content that’s good.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!