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Nine out of 10 won’t pay for online news – survey

The debate about newspaper paywalls has intensified after a new survey has found that 90pc of people won’t pay for news online.

In the week that Rupert Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times launched their new paywall-protected sites, research has suggested that nine out of ten consumers will refuse to pay the new £1-per-day or £2-per-week fees.

The Digital Entertainment Survey was carried out by media law firm Wiggin which has clients across the digital media spectrum.

Its findings of the survey appear to bear out the findings of the recent failed experiment by Johnston Press which introduced temporary paywalls on three of its local newspaper sites only to find the number of subscribers barely climbing into double figures.

However interviewed in Steve Dyson’s blog on HTFP today, Cleethopres Chronicle editor Nigel Lowther says he has no intention of giving his newspaper’s content for free and promises that if it ever does go online, it will be behind a paywall.

“We believe it would have been harmed if we had just given away the hard-gained content free. We are determined this will not happen. When we do go online, we will charge… It represents a good opportunity and a sensible way forward,” he told Steve.

The survey found that 70pc of people said the reason they would not pay to access online news is because there is enough free content out there already.

Only 10pc would pay to access news content, but this would have to be on an exclusive basis.

However although nearly half of the people who took part in the research said they would liked accessing content online, 43pc said they still liked to read a paper version as it is “more relaxing.”

Wiggin partner Alexander Ross said: “This report provides real insight into what consumers want in the new digital market, and how much they’re willing to pay for it, and of course it’s consumers who will determine the winners and losers in the new digital Britain.”


Davy Gravy (26/05/2010 11:44:35)
The Chronicle has got it right. Most newspapers got it wrong by educating its readers to expect content for free (despite the industry having built its success on selling information for a cover price). If Starbucks gave its coffee away (maybe with an advert on the side of the cup) would we then accept paying £2.50 a cup?

Paul (26/05/2010 12:20:56)
Davy Gravy – exactly, newspapers opened pandora’s box when they put content online for free. The industry has tried more tricks than Paul Daniels in its approach to web content and still hasn’t worked out the best solution.
Of course nine out of ten punters won’t pay for the Times content. That’s because every other newspaper will still provide it for free. I suspect those nine aren’t long-standing Times readers in the first place. I wonder what the figure would be if all newspapers provided content behind a paywall. And while the BBC provides content for free, I suspect other news outlets will do so.
Fair play to The Times for taking this approach but it’s going to be a difficult approach for them, and a fruitless example to the rest of us, while they work as a lone ranger.

Rich in Bristol (26/05/2010 12:51:33)
But surely the regionals have one big advantage over the Times – lack of decent competition. Local BBC is often rubbish (or at least spread very thinly) … the papers are the only ones which cover all the courts, all the sports matches, most of the meetings, the real local issues. The Times is fighting the Indie, Guardian, Telegraph and even the Mail for readers. In most cases, the local paper is the only real player in town.
I think the regionals should go for the paywall, maybe (dare I say it) work with the BBC on some kind of mutually advantageous copy sharing/web limiting arrangement then take a tight line with the bloggers who nick content and don’t attribute (although personally I suspect most bloggers have very narrow and small audiences)

Paul Jones (26/05/2010 12:57:31)
Putting thme whole story on line for free will obviously cut newspaper sales and you don’t need an NCE to work that out. Give site visitors headlinhes and tasters, yes, but not the whole lot. Otherwise, who is goign to pay for it?

localhack (26/05/2010 13:35:01)
But the Chronicle is already giving its “ahrd-gained content” for free – in print!

Call Me Cynical (26/05/2010 14:59:36)
Rich in Bristol on what planet are you living? Quote: “The papers are the only ones which cover all the courts, all the sports matches, most of the meetings, the real local issues.”
That is just the point, most of the so called local papers I know of NO LONGER cover courts, councils, most of the local meetings and all the sports. They have not got the staff numbers to do so. And that is why their circulations are going through the floor (average 5-10 per cent down every six months). Many/most will be out of business in four or five years.
The situation is not going to get any better when the answer to this from numbskull executives in companies like Johnston Press is to cut editorial resources even further. It’s a vicious circle. Invest in quality editorial and stop paying those executives vast bonuses which they in no way deserve.

Rich in Bristol (26/05/2010 15:34:36)
To Call me Cynical:
You are cynical! I do understand your point about the cuts but the widest coverage of most cities, like it or not, is still from the regional press. Now it would be great if we could return to the halcyon days of enormous staffs but we can only deal with what we’ve got. Anyway, that’s not quite the point. What I was trying to say was that putting it behind a paywall COULD lead to better circulation which COULD give the papers a better platform for investing in editorial. I don’t have a crystal ball but I think that a constructive approach is needed. My main point was that, handled correctly, the regionals could benefit more from a paywall relatively than the likes of The Times

fearfulforfuture (26/05/2010 16:05:21)
What is maddening about all this is that we in newsrooms across the country knew from the start that putting all content for free on our websites would bring the papers down. In my own company (Newsquest-owned)we were fed the line that the revenue from the websites would support the newspaper. None of us believed it. And guess what now – there are hardly any reporters left to keep either the websites or the newspapers in business.

Mediawatcher (26/05/2010 16:12:50)
Paul Jones is the only one talking any sense here. When I was a sub I argued that we should only put tasters for stories on the website – and then readers might continue to buy the paper for the full version. It might have escaped the attention of many of the people who have commented here in favour of paid-for news content online that uber-local websites are booming and many free newspapers are enjoying a new-found prosperity in places where droves of staff from paid-fors have been made redundant. The Evening Standard and other free daily newspapers in London provide an excellent FREE news service – and there are others elsewhere. And then there are the ‘amateur’ local news websites (and publications) run by non-journalists. I could go on and on… Who really wants to pay for news in this day and age? I will never pay for news online – and neither will anyone else who has a modicum of sense.

Idiots (26/05/2010 16:52:07)
Of course, newspaper circulation was rock solid before the Internet arrived. Oh, wait a minute, it had fallen by 50% in the previous 20 years … People never bought news, they bought a package, but suddenly you expect them to buy just news? Do you expect them to pay the same amount as they paid for the whole package before? Why was the jobs day always the biggest sales day? Why did property day show another spike? Even motors had an effect. Now none of that is counted as part of your news sites – if you had taken them all out of your newspapers,
your newspapers would have sunk more quickly. Oh,wait a minute,they have largely disappeared from newspapers. Still if only you’d have kept news off the web … Idiots, the lot of you.