The portion of U.S. consumers who say they pay for online news more than doubled from 9% in 2016 to 21% this year, a survey found. That trend is positive for publishers seeking to replace declining ad
sales with reader revenue, but only a handful of national newspapers are benefiting.
The research group published its findings in an annual report that analyzes online news consumption trends worldwide. It asked more than 90,000 people
in 46 countries about their online reading habits, and conducted focus groups in a smaller group of regions including the United States.
People who pay for news often
subscribe to more than one publication.
The median number of subscriptions is about two, which suggests there is some overlap among the national publications. About one-third (31%) of people
who pay for news subscribe to the NYT, followed by The Washington Post (24%) and The Wall Street Journal (7%).
The common characteristic among those
publications is their paywalls work to bring readers into the purchase funnel. They all reported gains in subscriptions in the past year, especially as consumers spent more time with digital
The concentration in paid readership among a handful of publications has led to concerns of a “winner take all” environment that doesn’t help local
news outlets. Only about one-quarter (23%) of people who pay for news said they subscribe to a local, regional or city publication.
Local news outlets have an
opportunity to increase their paid online readership with harder paywalls, especially on news coverage that can’t be found from other sources. With national publications cutting back on local
stories, as the WSJ
plans to do with its coverage of New York City, there is an opening for other news providers.