Paywalls are increasingly getting in the way of people accessing content. But many are willing to spring, judging by Paying for News: Price-Conscious Consumers Look For Value amid Cost-of-Living Crisis, a study by Reuters Institute and University of Oxford.
In the U.S., 21% of consumers paid for online news in the 12 months prior to the research, versus a 20-country average of 17%. In contrast, 39% paid in Norway, 33% in Sweden, 22% in Australia and 21% in Finland. Only 11% subscribe in Germany and 9% in the UK.
The U.S. market is dominated by such high-end titles as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. Bundling of offers is increasingly popular.
But 47% in the U.S. cancelled or renegotiated subscriptions. And 28% simply cancelled.
Yet 25% have taken additional subscriptions, and 38% have held the line where they are. Moreover, 4% have donated to publications, the highest percentage anywhere.
What drives a reader to subscribe or donate to a news outlet? In the U.S., the motivations are:
Meanwhile, non-subscribers say they would be persuaded by the following:
From this, we might infer that almost half will not pay for any reason.
To some extent, this analysis is based on dated research.
The 2023 Reuters Institute Digital News Report consisted of surveys done by YouGov in January/February 2023. This was supplemented by qualitative research conducted by YouGov.
With that understood, what else does it tell us?
Overall, 60% of ongoing subscribers or donors are male. In addition, 37% are age 55+, versus 11% who are Gen Z.
They have higher education (49%), medium or high income (79%) and 70% are at least very interested in news. Also, 51% are highly interested in politics.
But those things are no guarantee people will pay for online news content: In the U.S., only 33% of those who are very/extremely interested in news are paying. But that’s still higher than Germany (14%) and the UK (13%).
There is another model — that of The Guardian, which provides news free to all readers, while encouraging donations and offering a digital subscription for its premium app features.
At the least, it’s not as annoying.