Paywalls seem to be straightforward: users pay to gain access to content. What could be simpler? The internet, however, with its ability to infinitely copy and immediately disseminate information, quickly makes whatever lurks behind paywalls worthless. The only paywalls that have worked are those catering to niche industries or groups of people (such as financial investors) who require instant access to breaking stories in their industry.
eMarketer, a website specializing in digital intelligence reports, has just released a review of an April 2012 DigiCareers study in which U.S. digital medial professionals were polled about their feelings toward paywalls. Though a majority of them do not abide paywalls, there is evidence to suggest that attitudes toward the content-locking shcemes are becoming more accepting.
After encountering a paywall, 52% of digital media professionals immediately leave the site. 42% stick around to weigh whether the pricing is fair. Oddly, 4% of respondents "applaud the site for their business acumen."
As for what respondents are willing to pay for, Hollywood might be winning its public relations battle in that area. While only 8% said they had paid for radio, 47% paid for movies and 35% paid for music. Of course, these percentages are still a minority, suggesting that a simple paywall scheme for entertainment content may not be the best model.
90% of survey respondents expect a "freemium" model where at least some content is free before hitting a paywall, and 63% expect no ads once they pay. Almost as many, 61%, are willing to see ads behind a paywall, as long as it lowers the paywall toll price. In what might be the most interesting news from the survey, only one-quarter of respondents said they had a negative perception of sites that use paywalls.
With so much free content available online these days, what could possibly get viewers to pay for content? The answer isn't surprising. eMarketer cites an Accenture study that shows over one-third of viewers are willing to pay more for content that is either higher-quality or has reduced advertising attached to it. Viewers will gladly pay for new, high-quality content; they just don't want to feel cheated. If content creators offer their products in an easy, straightforward manner, in quality as good as that available through piracy, viewers will buy it.