IAB Benchmarks Value Of Free Digital Media Access To Consumers

Services across the internet, websites, and apps have become conveniences that consumers just don't want to give up, although they are willing to exchange data or pay for content and services.

The IAB surveyed more than 1,500 consumers to gain insights into how personal data has become the key to access free ad-supported content across the internet and apps, and to what extent consumers understand what it means.

The study also examined the role of advertising, consumers' willingness to pay for free online services, and their preferences and concerns when sharing data.

Some 80% of consumers believe a free ad-supported internet is important to democracy and free speech, and nearly 80% say it would be unfair to people with less financial resources if website and apps were not free to use.



Nearly three-in-four consumers understand that sharing their data enables websites and apps to know more about them to serve personalized ads, and about 70% are willing to share their personal data to support advertising overall.

Consumers value using the internet, websites, and apps. Findings from the IAB study, released Tuesday, show the value of compensation they would want for not having free access.

In aggregate, that value totaled nearly $38,000 per year.

The IAB examined how much the advertising industry would need to compensate consumers per year to not use internet, websites, and apps. Gen Z cited the highest amount at $54,169; followed by Millennials at $40,343; Gen X at $36,932; and Boomers at $29,407.

The compensation price for giving up the convenience averaged $37,619.

The gap widens when compared with the amount that consumers would pay per month to continue using services. Ninety-one percent of consumers participating in the study said they would react negatively and would become frustrated, disappointed, angry, confused, or sad if they had to start paying for the content they now use for free

The data shows consumers would only pay on average $164 per month to continue using currently free websites and apps. Gen Z once again cited the highest amount at $229.14; followed by Millennials at $176.89; Gen X at $139.16; and Boomers at $105.77.

One Millennial female participating in the study said “if I had to pay for websites/apps instead of accessing them for free, I wouldn't visit as many and would have access to a lot less information.”

The study found that four-fifths of consumers understand that websites and apps are free because of advertising, but Gen Z, for whom the Internet has existed all their lives, is less likely to agree than the other generations at 62%.

Interestingly, Gen Z is twice as likely to believe -- at 26% vs. 12% -- that websites and apps are free due to “altruistic reasons,” such as being considered free speech or a basic right, which makes sense when considering today's political beliefs and actions taken by this generation.

Nearly all consumers would rather receive ads than pay to use online services, according to the study findings.

Some 95% would prefer to receive ads than pay a high fee for websites and apps with no ads. Nearly 78% would prefer to get additional ads in turn for having to pay nothing, and 69% agree that it’s a fair trade-off to receive ads in exchange for free services.

Overall, the data show it's time for the digital ad industry to better inform consumers about their data use and protections, the benefits it provides, and data’s role that keep the Internet free and open.

2 comments about "IAB Benchmarks Value Of Free Digital Media Access To Consumers".
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  1. Leo Kivijarv from PQ Media, January 30, 2024 at 1:57 p.m.

    I'm having a difficult time with this study's findings. Television and radio were free for decades, but consumers began paying to access them when the media platforms shifted to a pay-model via cable/satellite/teleco services (and now streaming). No one was asked how much they would be compensated to lose access to free information. Let's take it a step further with brand licensing and promotional products - why aren't I compensated to wear a brand-associated apparel like a "Star Wars" t-shirt, but instaed have to pay for it, or radio station hat given away free at an event? I'm advertising thses brands by wearing them. 

  2. Joe Turow from U of Penn, January 30, 2024 at 5:43 p.m.

    Based on Laurie's write up. I agree with Leo. Unfortunately one must be an IAB member to read the report. Not very transparent for an issue that deserves public discussion.

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