Yet another survey on whether or not users will pay for content has dashed the hopes of publishers. A combined research effort by Ipsos Mendelsohn and PHD has revealed that 55.5 per cent of survey respondents would be very or extremely unlikely to pay for online newspaper or magazine content.
At the other end of the spectrum, results found that only 16.5 percent agreed that they were extremely, very or even a little likely to pay for content.
Nevertheless, in somewhat of a contradiction to the intial results, when questioned further about specific publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports, both of which are exisiting pay sites, 81.5 per cent of online users said the sites were good, very good or excellent value.
Bob Shullman, president of Ipsos said the results were not altogether discouraging for paid online content but: "the message that came out is that you can charge, but you better have incredibly compelling and unique data."
Shullman's data backs up recent posts by Alan Mutter on his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, which claim that only niche news organisations can potentially make any profit from their content- with all other producers of more generic news left out in the cold.
To add to the pessimistic findings, Ipsos/PHD also found that respondents spent almost half as much time (8.9 minutes) reading a publication's website as they did reading print, and 40.7 per cent said they only looked at the print publications, with only 3.1 per cent reading both the print and online version of the same publication.
Despite the generally unenthusiastic results for publications hoping to charge for content, the survey did find that 38 per cent would seek out a publication online if its print version ceased to exist. The news is a welcome, albiet small, concession as many publications, faced with bankrucpcy have been forced to consider closing their doors.
What the results overwhelming confirm, however, is that there is a cultural attitude in place that associates the Internet with free content. This is particularly true of news publications where the website is seen as a complimentary branch of the overall newspaper, rather than an entity in itself. Trying to force a change in this way of thinking is unlikely to be successful, and perhaps these results serve to reinforce the notion that publishers should be investing their resources elsewhere.
The survey of 2,404 U.S adults, which was conducted in July, asked respondents questions in relation to 40 particular newspapers and magazines.
Source: Editor & Publisher