According to a study by Reuters Digital News Report, most people around the world choose television and websites as their main source of information. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can also be traced here: with the introduction of quarantine restrictions, revenues from sales of print publications have significantly decreased, while attention to digital resources, on the contrary, has increased. Moreover, in a number of countries there is an increase in the popularity of paid news. How has people s attitudes towards online media changed before and during the pandemic?
Trends 2020: How and Why People Pay for Online News
The Reuters report focuses on people who use paid access to news, including through a free trial or “work” subscription. Experts emphasize that the modern consumer trusts mainly branded information channels, subscribing either to one brand or to a few selected ones gathered in one place.
A study of access to paid online news in three countries – Norway, the US and the UK – shows an upward trend in digital channels for major national brands, although Norwegians are enthusiastic about both print and digital. Thus, more than 50% of Americans subscribe to the leaders of the media industry, the New York Times or the Washington Post, and the British – to The Times or the Telegraph. Norwegians prefer local and regional publishers such as VG and Aftenposten. Only a small fraction subscribe to multiple publications, and therefore a winner-take-all dynamic is observed.
Choice – pay for information
Almost the same number of residents from the countries considered above (75-84%) tend to pay for a full subscription with their own money. Basically, this applies to people over 45 years old.
Reasons for paying for access to online content in the USA and UK, respectively:
- high quality content compared to free content: 53% / 52%
- special attitude towards journalists: 35% / 37%
- information value for work: 13% / 3%
- convenience of receiving news: 50% / 48%
- positive experience with digital channel: 23% / 23%
- easy payment method: 30% / 25%
- favorable terms of the “deal”: 32% / 25%
- other subscription benefits: 11% / 15%
- willingness to support journalism: 52% / 39%
Let s go over the topics: according to a study by AudienceProject, 63% of American adherents of the paywall system want to see short news in the feed, 50% prefer electronic newspapers and magazines. At the same time, 54% are interested in the international situation, 52% – domestic, 37% – financial.
The willingness to pay for data for use at work confirms the popularity of major business publications like the Wall Street Journal. Separately, it is worth highlighting the desire of consumers to financially support high-quality and proven journalism. Among Norwegians, this turned out to be only 21%, and the majority of respondents voted for the quality of the purchased content.
At the time of the survey, 90% of subscribers expressed their willingness to “buy” news in the future. But the outbreak of the pandemic, which had a negative impact on household finances, caused a significant drop in subscriptions. This fact became a reminder to publishers that popularity is fickle.
Is the credibility questionable?
Even before the pandemic, there was widespread concern over misinformation, according to a January 2020 report. For over 50% of respondents from different countries, a serious problem was the impossibility of separating truth from lies in Internet news. At that time, confidence in the media was undermined, including due to the intensification of political divisions. At the same time, 60% of the respondents were in favor of neutral news sources, and about 30% – in favor of responding to their views. Also, many expressed concern about registering on some web resources due to unclear reasons for collecting personal data. Among the opponents of registration are 45% of the respondents from Norway.
The statistics for April 2020 demonstrate the credibility of the national media reporting on pandemic-related events. Social networks, video services and instant messengers lose to them 2 times.
Importance of Email Newsletters
At the beginning of 2020, the age distribution of access to online platforms was noted. The demand for sites and applications is still lower among millennials who prefer to get acquainted with new information and discuss it on social networks. For publishers, demographic differences have prompted them to look for alternative ways to attract subscribers of different ages. An alternative was found – building connections with readers by sending newsletters to e-mail and mobile messages. Publishers in the United States have succeeded in this: half of the audience that receives such an email newsletter weekly chose it as the main source of up-to-date information on the situation in the world.
The implementation of Email Newsletters can be traced to the giant companies New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Google News aggregators, Nuzzel. Organizations from Belgium and America managed to attract 37% of subscribers to the transition to traditional digital news format, including those requiring payment.
Let s summarize the above with a great example of the paywall concept. The New York Times introduced paid subscriptions back in 2011, but saw an instant 90% decrease in readership. However, thanks to high-quality content, she was able to return the lost audience. Now imagine: at the end of March 2020, the number of its digital subscribers was 5 million, of which 3.9 million paid for news content, and 1.1 million for apps. For the period January-March, revenue increased by almost 5.5%!
If you, too, strive for a stable and profitable development in the field of online media, provide users with access to high-quality, valuable and reliable information – and become the top news channel that people will trust with their money.