Posted in journalism, News

Jury still out on paid news content

By Melanie Eversley, DJTF Treasurer; Reporter, USA Today Breaking News Desk

 There’s been lots of debate on effective money-making models for news organizations, with the industry focusing more and more on delivery via mobile apps and the Internet.

      Some have questioned the wisdom of outlets such as and The Wall Street Journal website charging for content. The argument is that readers and consumers won’t pay for news after growing accustomed all these years to getting it for free.

      A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project adds fodder to the debate. The survey released Dec. 30 showed that 65% of Internet users have paid to download content from the Internet — not just news content, but also music, software and apps. However, when broken down into categories, the survey showed that 18% have paid for digital newspaper, magazine or journal pieces, 11% have paid for premium content on a website that also includes free material and 7% have paid for podcasts.

     “What was really surprising was the percentage of Internet users purchasing online content is nearly the same as those purchasing other products and services, such as books and travel,” said report author Jim Jansen. “Additionally, the range of online content that Internet users purchase is quite varied.”

     The survey also showed people with higher incomes purchased more content, and of purchasers, the average spent per month was about $10. Incidentally, charges $5 per week for its content and The Wall Street Journal online edition costs $1.99 per week.

      Another study released by the Nielsen Company  almost a year ago, in February 2010, showed that 85% of consumers would prefer that content remain free but they are willing to pay for content of higher quality than free content. And 78% of the 27,000 consumers in 52 countries surveyed for the study said that if they already subscribe to a newspaper, magazine or some other news organization, they should be able to access online content for free.

     Nielsen concluded there are still no hard and fast answers.

     “At this point, no one can say for sure how deeply embedded the free-information ideology is among consumers,” according to the Nielsen report.