New research from Forrester has found that while a minority of consumers is willing to pay for online content, not all pay models are considered equal.
The findings are relevant today when just about every print publisher is hunting for ways to offset declines in ad revenue by shifting their revenue burden to readers who are used to a world of free online content.
While 80 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t pay for access to online content if the publisher erects a pay wall, equal amounts—8 percent—said they preferred an online subscription and multichannel subscription. Only 3 percent said they’d prefer micropayments.
That suggests publishers should keep offering free, ad-supported products to the vast majority who won’t pay, while giving those who will pay a choice of payment methods for access to premium products, says the Nov. 10 report entitled "Publishers Need Multichannel Subscription Models."
How people would want to access content should its print manifestation go away also varied, suggesting there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for publishers.
Thirty-seven percent favored a Web site, while smaller percentages preferred portable devices like mobile phones (14 percent), laptops and netbooks (11 percent). Another 10 percent favored getting their former print publication via an emailed PDF. Only 3 percent favored e-readers like the Kindle.
Notably, fully 44 percent said they preferred none of those options.
When it comes to predicting who will pay for online content, the study found that people who are college-educated, technology optimists and higher earners are more likely to pay for online newspapers than those who are unwilling to pay. Age was barely a factor in willingness to pay, though.
Age was a bigger factor among those who are willing to pay for online magazines. That group also is more likely to be college-educated and favoring technology. Income is barely a factor among this group, though.
On the bright side, the study also suggested there’s room for magazine publishers to charge more for their print editions.
Nineteen percent of respondents said they felt their magazine subscription was “surprisingly inexpensive,” compared to 11 percent who said the same for newspapers. Fifteen percent felt their magazine subscription was too expensive, versus 28 percent for newspapers.
The study was drawn from a mail survey of 4,711 U.S. consumers in August and September.