More Americans Pay For Online News, But Spend Most On National News

  • by June 24, 2021
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.
Almost half (45%) of subscribers in the United States pay for The New York Times, The Washington Post or Wall Street Journal,  according to a yearly study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
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 media.
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 WSJplans to do with its coverage of New York City, there is an opening for other news providers.
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