Pew Study Affirms Paywalls a Bad Move




There are certain things that anyone can hear and automatically say “I don’t think that’ll work very well” without doing any real research. You hear something and you have a visceral reaction that just makes you go with your gut because it makes sense. Even in those kind of no-brainer situations it helps when your “gut” is validated by a reputable source who actually did a little research.

The latest case of this occurrence comes from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. As reported over at ars technica the prestigious group has done the research to help us all say that our collective gut is right on the money when it comes to paywalls for news: the idea pretty well sucks.

Advertising remains the primary means of support for online news outlets, and there’s a long uphill battle facing anyone trying to forge new business models, at least according to a report produced by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The extensive report on the State of the Media examines numerous aspects of the media world, but emphasizes that, when it comes to online news, getting people to pay for content they otherwise value is “like trying to force butterflies back into their cocoons.”

Ouch. Last I heard, butterflies never go back into their cocoons. Boy it would be just like some mean old news guy like Rupert Murdoch to force a butterfly to do something so unnatural.

Some of the numbers that support this claim are that 81 percent of Internet users say they are fine with online ads of it keeps the content free. A surprising number of people click on these ads as well with 21 percent saying they do and the numbers going up to 39 percent when the level of someone’s Internet usage is high. On the downside, however, is the admission by these folks that they actually like ads because they “find them easy to ignore”. Ouch again.

The combined effect of lower ad impact and revenue has led many news sites to look for new ways to make some money, but the Pew report is not very optimistic on the prospects for other business models. Only seven percent of Americans said they would consider paying for news content and most said they would simply look for content elsewhere if their favorite site put up a pay wall.

The likelihood of hybrid offerings is increasing because the first company of any relevance that fails while trying a paywall only approach rather than the traditional free approach will get beat up pretty bad. Although the pressure for revenue is severe the downside of actually acting on all this paywall talk could be keeping folks away from it.

With only 7% of Americans saying that they would pay for content is seems hard to believe that there is any room for this model moving forward. What’s your take? Please be sure to comment in our new “pay per comment” section. You’d pay for that opportunity wouldn’t you?

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  • http://drivingonlinesales.com/ Wynne

    I’m pretty sure Rupert will make it work… at least to some extent. This is being talked about extensively for NYT and WSJ already.
    .-= Wynne´s last blog ..The Importance of Building Rapport Before Direct Marketing =-.