Paying for Online News

The issues surrounding paying for online news are more important than ever. As publishers struggle to generate sufficient revenue through advertising, they come under even more pressure to convince consumers to pay for access to digital content. On top of this, the rise of ad-blocking software has forced publishers to think seriously about their reliance on certain revenue streams. In this section we look at the potential drivers of payment, how much on average consumers are paying, and consider some of the potential barriers.

PROPORTION THAT PAID FOR ONLINE NEWS IN THE LAST YEAR

Paid for online news in the last year
NOR 27%
POL 20%
SWE 20%
ITA 16%
DEN 15%
FIN 15%
JPN 12%
NLD 12%
BEL 12%
FRA 11%
SUI 10%
AUS 10%
SPA 10%
USA 9%
IRE 9%
POR 9%
CAN 9%
GER 8%
HUN 8%
CZE 7%
AUT 7%
GRE 7%
UK 7%
Q7a. Have you paid for ONLINE news content, or accessed a paid-for ONLINE news service in the last year? (This could be digital subscription, combined digital/print subscription or one-off payment for an article or app or e-edition).
Base: Total sample in each country.

The above chart shows the percentage that paid for access to online news, whether in the form of digital subscription, combined digital/print offer, or one-off payment for an article or e-edition. However, simply looking at the raw number of people that have paid something for online news only tells part of the story. Arguably more important for publishers is how much people are actually paying.

If we look at the average (median) amount people say they have paid in each country, the picture is very different. Although figures should be treated cautiously due to the difficulty of reliable recall, large differences cannot be entirely ignored. In countries where paying for access to online news is relatively common – such as Poland and Italy – the average amount paid (in pounds sterling) is comparatively low. In contrast, in the UK – even though only 7% pay for online news – the average amount paid per year (£82) is higher than everywhere else.

YEARLY MEDIAN PAYMENT FOR ONLINE NEWS IN POUNDS STERLING

Median yearly payment
UK £82
SUI £71
USA £62
AUS £53
NLD £47
AUT £47
SWE £43
NOR £41
FIN £40
SPA £40
BEL £39
GER £36
FRA £33
DEN £32
GRE £32
ITA £28
IRE £28
JPN £26
CAN £23
POR £21
HUN £13
CZE £12
POL £9
OPTQ7bi. How much have you paid for online news content, or for access to a paid for online news service in the last year?
Base: All who paid for online news in the last year: Switzerland = 135, UK = 76, US = 135, Australia = 140, Netherlands = 120, Austria = 87, Sweden = 235, Norway = 284, Finland = 199, Spain = 150, Belgium = 115, Germany = 109, France = 130, Denmark = 142, Greece = 105, Italy = 242, Ireland = 138, Japan = 161, Canada = 125, Portugal = 95, Hungary = 121, Czech Republic = 98, Poland = 263.
Note: Those who selected “Don’t know” were excluded from the analysis.

The average amount people pay is in part determined by specific national economic factors, as well as how much publishers choose to charge for access. Nonetheless, we see that the dominant payment model in each country heavily influences differences in average payment. In countries where most people pay for online news through ongoing subscriptions – such as the UK, the US, Australia, and in the Nordic countries – average payments tend to be higher. Nordic newspaper publishers in particular have seen success in targeting existing readers by offering print/digital bundles. Average payments are lower in countries where making one-off payments are the norm, such as Poland and Italy.

COUNTRIES GROUPED BY DOMINANT METHOD OF PAYMENT FOR ONLINE NEWS

payment table
Q7ai. You said you have accessed paid-for ONLINE news content in the last year… Which, if any, of the following ways have you used to pay for ONLINE news content in the last year?
Notes: A binomial test was used to determine whether one method of payment accounted for significantly more payments within a country. Countries where there was no significant difference between each payment type were placed in the half and half category.

YEARLY MEDIAN PAYMENT (IN POUNDS STERLING) FOR ONLINE NEWS IN COUNTRIES DOMINATED BY
ONE-OFF AND ONGOING PAYMENTS

Yearly median payment
UK £82
USA £62
AUS £53
SWE £43
NOR £41
FIN £40
SPA £40
BEL £39
FRA £33
DEN £32
ITA £28
IRE £28
JPN £26
CZE £12
POL £9
OPTQ7bi. How much have you paid for online news content, or for access to a paid for online news service in the last year? If you have paid to different providers for online news, think only of the single provider you have paid the most to. If you can’t remember the exact amount, please put your best estimate to the nearest pound. Please use whole numbers.
Base: All who paid for online news in the last year in each country (see previous chart).
Note: Those who selected “Don’t know” were excluded from the analysis.

It is difficult to identify clear patterns in the data that point to those groups who are more likely to pay for online news. Although the presence of well-funded public service broadcasters (PSBs) with a large reach is often blamed for the lack of enthusiasm to pay for online news (‘who will pay for online news if you go the website for a public service broadcaster for free?’), we find no evidence that online PSB news consumption has a negative effect on paying – even after controlling for numerous other factors (including age, gender, income, trust in news, and interest in news). Whether we look at countries where PSBs have a large online reach, or countries where their reach is small, we see no evidence of any significant negative effect.