With this in mind, we started our latest research in the “Reinventing Digital Editions” series, in which we surveyed 4,000 news consumers across Europe and the United States. Our findings were recently released in the report “Reinventing Digital Editions: Reader Insights‘, which includes reader personas developed through one-on-one interviews with 30 readers.
In this article we dive into the findings on reader willingness to pay for online news – you can download the full report for more research on other news reader
Abundance of free content stops readers from paying
By far, the most common reason readers give for why they do not pay for digital news is because they can find plenty of free content already elsewhere (61.9% of respondents). We can clearly see that the abundance of free content online is the biggest blocker in successfully capturing digital reader revenues for many newspapers today.
From this we see further evidence of Rachel Davis Mersey’s prediction for news in 2019: local news becomes truly local.
“The evidence that audiences are unwilling to pay for local news is actually clouded by the fact that most local news is not local at all.” — Rachel Davis Mersey, assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University
With the internet, anything other than truly local news competes against a deluge of free content from various sources, further lowering reader willingness to pay for digital news.
The cost of paying for digital news and the ability to access the paid content in different ways (such as coming from social or by-passing the paywall using incognito mode) are also common reasons for not paying. A distrust in media accounts only for 6.8% of respondents globally — however this number spikes to 17.5% in the US and 12.5% in the UK.
Readers willing to pay for specific online news formats
In a surprising finding, 30.6% of respondents who pay for digital news said they started paying because they could not get the specific format for free elsewhere. Savvy publishers will take note of this finding to innovate on their format strategies for premium content in 2019.
Paywalls aren’t just important for acquisition, but also for retention
Getting a reader to start paying for online news is only half the battle. We know how important retention (and engagement) strategies are — after all, industry-wide half of all new subscribers will churn in the first three months.
The most common reason respondents give for why they do continue to pay for online news is the unlimited access to digital news stories. We can see that a paywall is indeed important in your retention strategy.
In our interviews with readers, we also found respondents appreciate the guarantee of digital always being ready for them early in the morning, as sometimes the print newspaper would arrive too late for their morning routine.
Other respondents listed the ability to stay up to date with their local news anywhere they go as the main reason they stay subscribed. One respondent explained that as he often travels, his digital subscription allows him to ‘keep the newspaper habit through digital.’ This aspect of habit-formation is key, and is indeed a particular concern for our research going forward.
Media innovation analyst @ Twipe
Republished with kind permission of Twipe Mobile