Consumers State They’re Willing To Pay A Little For Online News

    November 17, 2009

It seems like every month another news organization toys with the idea of charging for their content. But, we always rejoin, you’ll ultimately sacrifice your audience if you charge for news content. However, the Boston Consulting Group says that may not always be the case—in fact, even Americans are willing to pay for online news.

Well, sort of. The average amount an American was willing to pay for news was $3—and not $3 a day, but $3 a month. Not exactly the profits Rupert Murdoch dreams of, is it?

The survey also found that people were more willing to pay for news that was:

  • Unique, such as local news (67 percent overall are interested; 72 percent of U.S. respondents) or specialized coverage (63 percent overall are interested; 73 percent of U.S. respondents)
  • Timely, such as a continual news alert service (54 percent overall are interested; 61 percent of U.S. respondents)
  • Conveniently accessible on a device of choice

And good news for newspapers: “consumers are more likely to pay for online news provided by newspapers than by other media, such as television stations, Web sites, or online portals,” especially since these other media have so much free competition. Interestingly, while Americans were more likely to pay for sites that offered access to multiple papers, only national and local—not major metropolitan-based papers—have that level of appeal. (I’m not sure which category The New York Times and Washington Post fall into here.)

Marc Vos, a Milan-based partner and leader of BCG’s media sector in Europe, tells newspapers that they “should be experimenting with paid online content. It will take trial and error to find what works.”

The prospects aren’t so bleak everywhere. In addition to 1000 US respondents, the survey also looked at results in Germany, Australia, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, Norway, Finland. While Australians also wanted to pay only $3 (USD?) for their news, other countries saw higher rates. The New York Times said that this may be because Western Europe has more consolidated news offerings, where news in the US is a very fragmented industry.

However, before Western European news sites get all excited, note that the highest amount on the survey, in Italy, was $7 a month.

What do you think? What would you be willing to pay for news?