Posted November 16, 2009 1:39 pm by with 11 comments

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pile-of-newspapersIt seems like every month another news organization toys with the idea of charging for their content. But, we always rejoin, you’ll ultimately sacrifice your audience if you charge for news content. However, the Boston Consulting Group says that may not always be the case—in fact, even Americans are willing to pay for online news.

Well, sort of. The average amount an American was willing to pay for news was $3—and not $3 a day, but $3 a month. Not exactly the profits Rupert Murdoch dreams of, is it?

The survey also found that people were more willing to pay for news that was:

  • Unique, such as local news (67 percent overall are interested; 72 percent of U.S. respondents) or specialized coverage (63 percent overall are interested; 73 percent of U.S. respondents)
  • Timely, such as a continual news alert service (54 percent overall are interested; 61 percent of U.S. respondents)
  • Conveniently accessible on a device of choice

And good news for newspapers: “consumers are more likely to pay for online news provided by newspapers than by other media, such as television stations, Web sites, or online portals,” especially since these other media have so much free competition. Interestingly, while Americans were more likely to pay for sites that offered access to multiple papers, only national and local—not major metropolitan-based papers—have that level of appeal. (I’m not sure which category The New York Times and Washington Post fall into here.)

Marc Vos, a Milan-based partner and leader of BCG’s media sector in Europe, tells newspapers that they “should be experimenting with paid online content. It will take trial and error to find what works.”

The prospects aren’t so bleak everywhere. In addition to 1000 US respondents, the survey also looked at results in Germany, Australia, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, Norway, Finland. While Australians also wanted to pay only $3 (USD?) for their news, other countries saw higher rates. The New York Times said that this may be because Western Europe has more consolidated news offerings, where news in the US is a very fragmented industry.

However, before Western European news sites get all excited, note that the highest amount on the survey, in Italy, was $7 a month.

What do you think? What would you be willing to pay for news?

  • I dont think the fact hat people are willing to only pay $3 is the problem. The problem is they want their news specialized and local. How in the heck is that going to work?
    .-= Jaan Kanellis´s last blog ..Google Will Roll Out “Caffeine” Update After Holidays =-.

  • If I could get every Marketing Pilgrim RSS subscriber to pay just $3 a month, I’d be delighted! 🙂

  • Now Jordan, why would I want to pay for a service that’s bringing me the news from the past. Most people are finding out that by simply jumping on Google News you can check what’s happening in the world in less than 5 minutes. Not only because everything is a click away from the source, but also because you can actually get a good sense on what the news piece is about by reading its headline.

    If you were watching the news on TV, you’d have to wait for that piece they’ve been teasing you with for an hour (with commercials in between of course). I’d by a paper if the article I’m looking for is worth saving for my grandchildren, for example (.75c can’t beat a good bed story of how things used to be in the past!). It’s not about the money, it’s about the timing.

    .-= Paul L’Acosta´s last blog ..marketingfails: "It’s so easy to spread information now that it lasts longer and finds more niches" =-.

  • Pingback: Either 48% or 20% of people will pay for news online ;) « Kindle Review – Kindle 2 Review, Books()

  • @Jaan—I think that just illustrates the problem even more. Local, specialized news at $0.10/day/reader? You can’t afford that. But those sites that are charging for news (including the few that do so successfully) aren’t thinking about a $3/month price point., for example, is $1.99/week.

    @Paul—I don’t think that timing has a lot to do with this. All of the content discussed here is online content—newspaper websites, TV news websites, etc. And considering that every single newspaper subscriber (and anyone who picks it up more than a couple days a month) already pays more than $3, I’d say something about that seems to be working, at least better than online.

  • Interesting discussion, Jordan. We grew up turning to the newspapers for everything newsy and trusted the source. Imagine doing that once or twice daily for over ten years. I think the idea that newspapers provide better content is still ingrained and will take time to phase out so maybe that’s why people would prefer to read their online news at a newspaper site. . I’d be willing to pay $3 for local and international online news, especially when it comes from newspapers 🙂 As I said, it would take time to phase out.
    .-= David Walker´s last blog ..First Webinar (Almost) a Success! =-.

  • Russ

    What people SAY they are willing to pay and what they DO pay are two completely different things. It will be interesting to see what actually happens. I will be watching closely.

  • I was surprised to see that they carried out the survey on the web only – convenient, but could introduce a bias that would make it difficult to extrapolate these results to the whole population.

    Personally I do not think that one solution will fit all of North America, Europe and Australasia, where the pace and drviers of change in this sector are substantially different.

    • I was thinking along the same lines myself, Mark. I would like to see the break down of the survey results and the questions asked. It is very interesting that the survey was conducted online – surely that would be biased as people doing surveys online would be more willing to pay for stuff online (at least that would be my guess).

      I would love to see the results of the same survey with the typical person in the street.

  • Honestly, this is all so very stupid.

    Newspapers could charge $10-15 per month if they delivered a mix of free and paid quality content that people wanted.

    But that’s the key isn’t it: delivering what people want, instead of what the news industry wants to shove at us.

  • At least 3 dollars would be a starting point for them. I’m sure over time they could and would evolve the price and offerings somewhat.