80% of Consumers Would Not Pay For Content

    November 19, 2009
    Chris Crum

As you’ve more than likely heard by now, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch in an interview last week talked about the possibility of blocking search engines from indexing News Corp. publications’ content. While this may or may not actually happen, it is one of the latest (and biggest) examples of a publisher taking the position of search engines hurting them rather than helping them.

In an informative piece at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan interviews Google News business product manager Josh Cohen about how Google handles paywalls. "For me, I find it puzzling publishers believe they have to make a choice," says Sullivan. "They can have their paywall AND Google traffic combined, via Google’s First Click Free program. Are there many publishers who simply aren’t aware of this program?"

"First Click Free is only one example of the ways that publishers can make subscription content available," says Cohen. "They can do previews, they can block it in different ways. I think there are a lot of those questions about the nuts and bolts of how you can work with us, subscriptions just being one of them."

Sullivan highlights the following ways in which Google handles free and paid news content. They boil down to four basic scenarios: free content, first click free, subscription, and preview. First Click Free puts content behind a paywall, but Google indexes it and makes it searchable, and users can get to it from Google and read the entire article for free, but can’t access other stories from the site without paying, unless they go back to Google and start over.  The subscription option puts the content behind a paywall, and Google indexes the whole article and makes it searchable, but people can only read the whole thing if they pay. The preview option puts the content behind a paywall, and Google does not index the entire story, but only a preview. People can then pay to read the whole thing.

There are many talking points on these options, and Sullivan does a wonderful job of going through them with Cohen. The real question, however, is whether or not it is worth it to even have a paywall. If the latest research from Forrester is any indication, offering only paid content is not the wisest decision, because 80% of consumers wouldn’t access news sites if they had to pay.

Forrester - Would You Pay for Content?

Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps says the data suggests two things:

1. Publishers should continue to offer free, ad-supported products to the 80% of consumers who won’t pay for content online; and

2. Publishers should offer consumers a choice of multichannel subscriptions, single-channel subscriptions, and micropayments for premium product access.

As she says, consumers want choice. "The need for a multichannel product and pricing strategy is further reinforced by the ‘what if’ scenario of print being discontinued," says Epps. "When we asked consumers, ‘If the publications you read were no longer available in print, how would you prefer to access that content?’ we found that no single channel dominated responses."

37% of US consumers said they’d prefer to access content via a web site, 14% said by mobile phone, 11% said by laptops and netbooks, and 3% said by eReaders. 10% said by PDF by email.

Related Articles:

Obvious: People Don’t Want to Pay for Online News

> Murdoch On Blocking Search Engines: "I Think We Will"

> Google Okay With Blocking News Corp.