Rupert Murdoch may be rubbing his hands at the prospect of raking in even more cash from charging people to read his websites, but new research by Harris Interactive reveals that barely anyone will be prepared to pay up.
The research found that three quarters of readers would immediately switch to an alternative free news source if charges were introduced, with just 5% of those readers prepared to fork out to keep on accessing the site.
With online advertising revenues slumping, publishers have been mulling over the idea of introducing paid content for some time, but this latest study is sure to get execs wailing into their frapuccinos, as Andrew Freeman, Harris’s senior media research consultant explains:
This does not look like good news for a pay model in a competitive environment.
As long as free alternatives exist, consumers will turn to them for their daily news information, meaning heavy losses in terms of audience figures for those that charge. It remains to be seen whether the news industry will take the leap and begin charging for that which has been free for so long.
Looking at the research in more detail, it seems that – rather surprisingly – younger readers are more likely to pay than old folks (13 times more 16-24 year olds said they would pay than than 35-44 and 55-64 year olds), and when it comes to regions, Londoners are Welsh are most likely to pay for their favourite news site, while stingy Yorkshiremen, Midlanders and those in the south-east are least likely to stump up.
We have to say that the findings of this study very much chime with our own feelings – if our favourite websites started charging, there’s very, very few we’d be prepared to pay to keep on reading.