Most Americans Not Willing To Pay To Read News Content Online

New York, N.Y. – April 29, 2011 – As businesses explore best practices for success in the changing landscape created by the Internet, some companies have discussed charging for access to online content that was previously free. Some media outlets have discussed doing this, and The New York Times recently began charging online readers who view over 20 articles per month. But there may be trouble ahead as a recent Adweek/Harris Poll found that a large majority said they would be willing to pay nothing per month to read a daily newspaper’s content online (80%). Of the one in five who would pay, 14% said they would pay between $1 and $10 per month while very few said that they would be willing to pay between $11 and $20 (4%) or more than $20 per month (2%).

These are some of the findings of a new Adweek/Harris Poll survey of 2,105 U.S. adults surveyed online between March 29 and 31, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Interestingly, while online paywalls are becoming more common, fewer people say they would be willing to pay to read content online now, than said so in late 2009-20% say they would be willing to pay for a daily newspaper’s content online today, compared to 23% who said so in December 2009.

Other findings of the recent poll include:

  • Younger adults are more likely than those older to pay for a daily newspaper’s content online-over a quarter of adults aged 18-34 say they would (26%) compared to between 15% and 18% of all other age groups;
  • Men are more willing to pay than women are-a quarter of men say they would (25%) with 18% saying they would pay between $1 and $10 per month, while only 15% of women say they would pay anything to read a daily newspaper’s content online; and
  • The more education a person has the more likely they are to be willing to pay to read a daily newspaper’s content online-over a quarter of college graduates say they would pay (28%) compared to one in five people who have attended some college (19%) and just 15% who have not attended any college at all.

So What?

Currently several major publications charge readers for their content online including the Wall Street Journal Financial Times, and most recently The New York Times. Unfortunately it seems that as these companies are adapting to a business environment increasingly dominated by the Internet, their readers are slower to embrace, or are resistant to, certain changes, especially when it comes to paying for something that has been free for so long. This raises several questions and areas for more research, including: how many Americans rely on the Internet for their news content, how particular are Americans about what publication or source they go to for their news, and, how do people think that media companies with large online presences should pay for the work that they do.

 

TABLE 1

PAYING FOR NEWS CONTENT ONLINE

How much, if anything, would you be willing to pay per month in order to read a daily newspaper’s content online?

Base: All U.S. adults

Total Dec. 2009

Total

Age

Gender

Education

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Male

Female

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad +

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Willing to pay (NET)

23

20

26

18

15

17

25

15

15

19

28

More than $20

1

2

3

2

1

1

3

1

1

1

3

$11-$20

4

4

6

2

4

3

5

3

3

3

5

$1-$10

19

14

17

14

11

13

18

11

10

15

20

Nothing

77

80

74

82

85

83

75

85

85

81

72

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Adweek/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 29 and 31, 2011 among 2,105 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #53, April 29, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

 

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