Friday, September 25, 2009

Only 5% in UK would pay for web news

U.S. publishers planning to erect pay walls may want to take note of a new poll that found only 5% of newspaper site readers in the United Kingdom would be willing to pay for interactive content.

In a Harris Interactive Poll conducted for PaidContent:UK, researchers found that 74% of respondents simply would go to other sites if they were required to pay for access to the news they now get for free.

As for the balance of the respondents, 8% said they would take advantage of any free headlines on the news sites and 12% said they were unsure. The poll was published here this week.

The other interesting finding in the poll is how little readers are willing to spend to read the news. Fully 72% of respondents said they would not want to pay more than £10 per year, or $1.33 per month in U.S. dollars.

That compares with an average acceptable price point of $4.64 per month found in a recent poll conducted for the American Press Institute and the belief expressed by Steven Brill of Journalism Online that publishers can collect $8.33 a month in subscription fees.

Twenty percent of the respondents to the UK poll said they might be willing to pay up to £20 a year (US$2.67 per month) and 8% were willing to go as high as £50 annually (US$6.65 per month).

No one was willing to go any higher.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could make the argument that since people don't want to pay but rather turn to other free sites, then the industry needs to join forces and enact something all at once; however, I doubt the Yahoos and Googles of the world would not be able to counter with some kind of free news vehicle.

Granted they are not writing the news, now, but they'll find bloggers/freelancers/remaining free sites and some sort of agreement with CNN or NYT to help balance out their offering.

I just don't see how pay walls work, unless it's just the hyperlocal data that's being sold, paired with analysis about what it means.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless, of course, the pay wall really is a "knife the baby" approach. They are giving up their web presence to protect the paper. Is that really a good strategy, though?

Perhaps an interim strategy of a pay wall to protect print would in the end hurt their long-term bottom line.

I would hope newspapers are doing everything in their power to marginalize local online competitors. I don't see how pay walls help that.

If you are the main voice in town, you'll be fine 10 or 20 years from now. Just keep it that way.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What's the No. 1 goal of a local newspaper?

- Provide the best local news possible
- Be profitable, so that you can remain in business
- Dumping. Flood the local market with cheap/free news so that competitors don't arise.

I have to say I wouldn't know which to choose.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Larson said...

5% matches our experience with 43 newspaper websites charging for online subscriptions. The good news we've found is those online subscribers are willing to pay at least the cost of the print edition for the online only subscription.

We're testing higher prices now.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We know Plan A isn't working. Giving away the newspaper online was short-sighted and ill-conceived. But if this is Plan B, Lord help us.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, "giving away" the news wasn't what was short-sighted, underpricing online advertising is what was short-sighted. Can't believe how many people neglect that glaring and unfortunate fact. If you spent any time in old-media management in the late '90s-early '00s, you know that online ads were dismissed as a giveaway, add-on, near-freebie, as everyone sought to keep fattening the same old cow. What a horrific error that was - it taught advertisers a lesson that is difficult to unteach. This can be fixed but not until the original problem is acknowledged. Not seeing much signs of that, unfortunately, with people mistakenly flailing around hollering that "advertising is dead" etc. No, it's not. It's just undervalued. And for GOD'S sake tell all those freeloading weight-loss white-teeth bloodsucker ads to take a hike. You'll improve your real estate right there.

1:29 AM  
Anonymous A. Czartoryski said...

The PCUK/Harris Interactive Poll is faulty methodologically, and there is a lengthy discussion on that as well.

The authors of the poll gave respondents limited multiple choices as possible answers that HAD to result in a bias against the "I will continue to read" answer. Other studies show that those who are willing to pay for news site content represent up to 19% of Web users. Naturally, those who read online news several times a month or weekly are a lot more "willing to pay" than the so called fly-bys. And, the core loyalists, those who already access their favorite online news site 5-6 times a week, are a LOT more "willing;" nearly 50% would continue to read for a fee. The PCUK/Harris poll failed to cross-tabulate the data to show these important differences.

Those who interpreted the Poll's data on, also failed to notice that there is a huge difference between the generations of readers. As shown in one of the poll's tables, younger people are a lot MORE willing to pay; 13% of those aged 16-24 would pay for online news, comparing to 1% of those in age range of 35-64. The authors call it a paradox: "people who have money are the least interested in paid content" These is absurd. The difference stems from the younger people's familiarity with paid content (gaming, music, tutorial, i-Tune and Facebook applications, etc) and online payment processing (PayPal, SpareChange, SuperRewards, etc). It has nothing to do with wealth.

And, there are tons of other "mistakes" and false, tendentious interpretations in the PCUK/Harris Poll -- enough to dismiss it as partial and misleading.

8:22 AM  

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