Less than half of Americans (41%) said they might be willing to buy a digital subscription to a newspaper provided that they are presented with a persuasive argument, according to a new survey of 900 U.S. adults conducted by Meclabs, which examined their demands and attitudes toward online news.
The survey revealed significant variation in the news demands of different demographics. Older adults put a higher value on international news, with 94% of adults ages 55-64 calling it “essential” versus 83% of adults ages 25-34. The older demo also rates politics and government more important than the younger demo, at 94% versus 84% respectively, and also values editorials and opinions, at 64% versus 43%.
By contrast, younger adults put more value on entertainment news and arts and culture: 42% of adults ages 25-34 considered the former essential, rising to 53% for the latter. That compares to 29% and 35% for the two categories, respectively, for adults ages 65 and up.
News preferences also varied along gender lines.
While 70% of men said they consider business and finance news essential, that figure fell to 55% among women. Conversely, 70% of women said they consider health news essential compared to just 51% of men; women were also more likely to find arts and culture coverage essential, at 54%, compared to 36% for men.
Asked what sort of content they would consider paying for, respondents pointed above all to the ability to gain access to exclusive content unavailable from other news orgs, including arts and culture reporting and local news.
While the news that less than half of respondents said they would be willing to pay for a digital sub may not seem encouraging at first glance, that proportion compares favorably to the figures for newspaper readership at their peak.
According to historic data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (now the Alliance for Audited Media), paid circulation including subs and newsstand sales peaked at an average of 63.3 million in 1984, or 26% of the country’s total population of 236 million, and 38% of its adult population of 166 million.