Study Explores How Much Consumers Will Pay for Online News

By: Mark Dolliver/Adweek Information wants to be free, says one Internet Age mantra, but struggling publishers need to get paid. So, would consumers be willing to pay for news content online?

A survey released this week by Boston Consulting Group suggests many of them would, as long as they're not obliged to pay much.

Conducted online in October, the survey asked people how much per month they are "willing to spend to get online news on your PC or mobile." Among the U.S. respondents, the answers averaged out to $3 per month. The figure was higher -- though scarcely lavish -- at $6 per month among those who identified themselves as heavy consumers of print newspapers. In all, 48 percent of the U.S. respondents said they'd be willing to pay at least something to get news online.

The survey also looked at the kinds of news people would be interested in accessing online. The highest votes went to "special coverage/breaking news/investigative reporting" (73 percent) and "local and community-specific news" (72 percent). Sixty-one percent expressed interest in a "continuous news-alert service (e.g., real-time delivery of breaking news)." The figures were somewhat lower for "news archives" (57 percent), "subject-specific in-depth editorial" (54 percent) or a "personalized online newspaper from different sources" (53 percent). There were fewer takers for "sports news" or "business/financial news" (43 percent each).

When respondents were given a list of news providers and asked to pick the ones from which they'd be inclined to buy online content, "regional/local newspaper Web sites" scored best, cited by 58 percent. "National newspaper Web sites" were close behind, at 54 percent. Forty-three percent expressed interest in buying news content from "shared Web sites with multiple newspaper titles available."

There was considerably less interest in buying news from "online portals" (33 percent), social networking sites (28 percent), or TV station Web sites (21 percent).

-- Nielsen Business Media


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