According to a recent online survey by the University of British Columbia, 81% of Canadian adults would not pay to read news online and 90% would find free alternatives if their preferred news services started charging for content.
"These results should give pause to any news corporations in Canada or abroad that are considering erecting paywalls around their content," said Donna Logan, a professor emerita of UBC's Graduate School of Journalism and the lead author of the study Canadian Consumers Unwilling to Pay for News Online. Almost 1,700 adults took part in the survey.
What is perhaps the most striking number in the report is that only 30% of participants said they would be willing to pay for news online if no free alternative news websites were available. When compared with people in the U.S and UK, Canadians are slightly more reluctant to pay for news online.
The report found that of those willing to pay for news, the majority (34%) would prefer a flat-fee subscription model.
The results come not long after The New York Times launched its paywall in Canada on March 17th. The report suggests that even if The New York Times's attempt to charge for news turns out successful, other news providers might be wise to be cautious in following its example. "The New York Times is revered by many readers for its quality," said Logan, "so if its paywall system defies the odds and succeeds, these findings suggest it would be an exception, rather than a model to follow."
"Paywalls might work for selective publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London but given current public attitudes, most publishers had better start looking elsewhere for revenue solutions," the report concluded.
A related survey showed that Canadians value their Internet connection over other news media. 42% of respondents said they would be "least willing to give up" their Internet connection, while 24% felt the same way about television cable subscription. The survey concluded that the Internet is the main source for news for Canadians. Its sample, however, does not include Canadians not online, so the numbers for the general population may be somewhat lower.