by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
news, paid content

New Study Reveals (Duh) Very Few People Will Pay For News Online

from the ya-think? dept

We've been pointing this out for ages, but a new survey once again confirms that very few people would be willing to pay for news content online. In this case, only 5% said they'd pay for their newspaper if it put up a paywall, with most saying they'd find free alternatives instead. And, I'd argue (as I have before) that even that 5% is quite high. It's a survey, meaning that it's what people say they would do, rather than what they'd actually do. That means, you can probably lop off at least 50% of that 5%. At least. And yet, industry folks still think that 15% will pay? Good luck...

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  • icon
    MarcoVincenzo (profile), 23 Sep 2009 @ 2:58am

    Even the companies with currently profitable paywalls (WSJ, FT, etc.) are just holdovers from the print economy. The only reason they're surviving now is that people are used to them being the dominant sources of valuable information. But it won't last.

    I spend quite a bit of time reading articles on reddit, probably more than I should, but I've noticed that there are fewer linked articles behind paywalls, and when one is posted many readers immediately down vote it because it's behind paywall. Any company that locks up their content is soon going to find that while they may have increased their revenue in the short term, in the long term they've lost their relevance because their customers have found other sources for the same information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Griff (profile), 23 Sep 2009 @ 3:28am

    Typical web business model

    I used to have my email forwarded through "bigfoot" (email address for life).
    It was free, they had millions of users. They were no doubt burning VC money. Then, when I couldn't live without it, they started charging. Guess I'm one of the 0.? % that chose to stay with them (until they hiked prices so far and I thought they were taking the mickey, but that was 2 years later).

    You only need to monetise a fraction of a huge web audience to pull in revenue.
    But as your have been saying, if the SAME THING is available free elsewhere people will desert you.

    They should be building something unique FIRST, an experience no other site offers, with a friction free registration gateway that is free, THEN thinking about monetising it later. Maybe by ads, maybe subscription, maybe pay per view. There are only some many times that a given headline can be read by everyone in the world before it is not news any more. That large but finite number is what they need to win market share of.

    But like bigfoot, they have to make you need it before they dare to charge for it. And so far the individual sites of the "old" news media are offering me less value than my favourite aggregator.

    I'll stay with a site I really like if/when they ask for a small sum of money (maybe if they promise to remove slow loading ads or popups into the bargain), but they have to make me really like it FIRST.

    The classic pre bubble internet business plan was to build traffic then monetise. But this is no good with fickle traffic. The model should be to build MEMBERSHIP then monetise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 5:53am

      Re: Typical web business model

      You are kidding right? You paid for email? Or did you just pay to have all your email in one place? Were you subscribed to AOL at the time?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bradley Stewart, 23 Sep 2009 @ 3:38am

    I Would Pay Up To

    ten dollars a month if I received a selection of of news content from at least a hundred or so in or formally in print news services if I was given a menu of content which I could not only choose from but change at will. I'm not sure if I would pay much more than this not because it would not be worth it to do so but money is a little tight for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 3:51am

    5% seems wrong, paying is more like clicking on ad's and of all the sites I know of if people get 1%, they jump up and down all day screaming(ok I wrote that for dramatic purposes).

    Maybe people would pay for a bundle of news like hundreds of news for $19.99/month but I doubt that.

    Still this is good news even if you have 0.5% paying it can be profitable if you reach outside your borders and start accepting money from all over the world, but I'm not sure if governments would be willing to allow other players in their fields...oh well even if it is only in one place still is a good news that means that those 5% or less will contribute to the cash flow that could be complemented with other services that are still not in place, news media wasted a lot of time waiting, is time they start experimenting and fast or they will be replaced by minor players that didn't even dream off getting that much from paying costumers and don't have seem a good meal in ages and would take anything the market gives them LoL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 4:35am

    I had and epiphany about augmented reality and delivery news.

    Cool augmented reality

    Would people pay for a service that would show at your cell screen what is happening right at what your cell camera is pointing?

    Wouldn't be cool to see all that happened in one location or be guided to that location by your cell like in this video ?

    And don't forget you can always kill zombies

    Could photographic cameras link with cells to get some cool effects or info from people who photographed that location before?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    k., 23 Sep 2009 @ 4:39am


    I believe the next thing could be that a newspaper or magazine automatically gets downloaded onto your pda and tablet thru an itunes 'paper'cast service.
    The new mac tablet should be brought out with such an itunes system.

    Take your tablet in the morning, and start reading on the train or your local cafe, itunes uploaded it automatically into your tablet.

    I'm transcribed to a magazine and i can view it online... but actually i hate it that they won't give me a pdf file of the magazine. I have to be online to read it.

    Free wifi all over the world is not a common gift. Free internet is something for 2025.

    Subscription etc... all done thru the itunes networking service, which would also increase browsing and finding new available magazines.

    This will "save" the journal industry just like it's keeping the music for this moment "alive" (with a breathing machine but still alive...).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Misanthropist (profile), 23 Sep 2009 @ 4:41am

      Re: tablet

      RSS already exists. Use it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Call me Al, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:13am

      Re: tablet

      As a Londoner I lose all phone / wifi reception as soon as I set foot on the Tube (Undergroud) so can't check anything online when I'm commuting in to work. Millions of my fellow Londoners are in the same boat.

      If I was able to download something to my phone or computer and read it on the journey then I would be more likely to be willing to pay for it. For myself it is not that important a service but it may suit many others.

      As for the chap talking about it being "a good thing" if as much as 0.5% of people subscribe to papers online as it will provide sufficient funds. The subscriptions costs would have to be huge as the papers will lose the majority of their ad revenue. Afterall who is going to advertise in a paper which has 0.5% of the readers they used to?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 5:05am

    Short stories in cellphones are a big hit in japan!

    I saw an article about some short stories that are being sold and are doing great. The writer don't send the whole story all at once just post 1 or 2 paragraphs a day and keep posting the story everyday and people buy.

    Could this be done with investigative reporting? or other kind of news? or be a feature of a paid service like the old cartoons?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:05am

    I think the most interesting thing in the study is that when the 5% is broken down, most of the people claiming they would pay are 16-24 year olds.

    Are there any 16-24 year olds that have newspaper subscriptions right now? Do most 16 and 17 year olds even have access to a credit card (or debit card) which would allow them to pay for online content?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rupert "I am Fox News" Murdoch, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:33am

    Yes but if we can get 2.5% of the people to pay, look at how much money we can make!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:36am


    Did I say that 0.5% would be sufficient to pay all costs?

    Sorry what I meant to say was that there is a possibility that 0.5% can bring in profits if you have a big audience or spammers would be out of a job, but even if you don't have that kind of audience you still have 0.5% of something that can bring in some revenue and if you add up that to other means probably news media companies can turn a profit again.

    So in that context even 0.5% is good news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Call me Al, 23 Sep 2009 @ 7:05am

      Re: Missunderstanding

      Ah right I see.

      My point on the advertising revenue still stands though. The subscription revenue will have to cover the costs of the paper because the same level of ad revenue will not be forthcoming due to the drastic decrease in readers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    kilroy, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:37am

    I was contemplating that fact the other morning ...

    I was contemplating that fact the other morning ... as I carried out the recycle bin at my GF's house. Increasingly, we are seeing all these "green initiatives" but how many people still receive the daily newspaper & do not have time to actually read them. Whenever I ride the public transit buses, in my city, the floor & seats are littered with free-newspapers readily available at the transits stations.

    I love the news ... I recall making time to read it from cover to cover when I was younger. I would love to subscribe to it again but cannot justify the waste (even recycled).

    Our daily does provide an online option to those who pay for the physical paper. I am torn ... I like the news, but don't need the paper. And I'm still not convinced that their online offering is worth my dollars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sergio, 23 Sep 2009 @ 6:39am

    They'll screw it up further

    Plus I'm sure they'll turn even more people off with an overly complicated sign up process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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