Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pew Research Center Internet Survey Reveals That 65 Percent Of Respondents Have Already Paid For Online Content In Some Form

Many Alaskan Internet users would undoubtedly go ballistic if the Anchorage Daily News was to suddenly announce that its website would become a paid subscription site. Too many people are accustomed to getting online news content for free, believing that the mere fact that they pay for Internet service is sufficient.

But a survey of 1,003 adults living in the continental United States, of whom 755 are Internet users, conducted from October 28th through November 1st, 2010 by Princeton Data Source on behalf of the Pew Research Center shows that 65 percent of Internet users have already paid for Internet content in some form. The actual survey questions were posed only to the 755 Internet users; if a respondent denied using the Internet, the contact was terminated at that point.

-- Read the full 13-page survey report HERE.
-- Read the survey questions HERE.

The two most critical elements of this report are first, what type of content are people paying for, and second, what's their demographics.

Type of content: People have been much more willing to pay for music and software than other commodities. Surprisingly, more people are willing to pay for printed content than I imagined, although more of that is for magazine or journal articles rather than news stories.

* 33% have paid for digital music online
* 33% have paid for software
* 21% have paid for apps for their cell phones or tablet computers
* 19% have paid for digital games
* 18% have paid for digital newspaper, magazine, or journal articles or reports
* 16% have paid for videos, movies, or TV shows
* 15% have paid for ringtones
* 12% have paid for digital photos
* 11% have paid for members-only premium content from a website that has other free material on it
* 10% have paid for e-books
* 7% have paid for podcasts
* 5% have paid for tools or materials to use in video or computer games
* 5% have paid for “cheats or codes” to help them in video games
* 5% have paid to access particular websites such as online dating sites or services
* 2% have paid for adult content
* 6% have paid for another kind of content not specified above

Demographic correlations: There are distinct correlations between race, education, age, and income vs. the willingness to pay for Internet content.

-- Whites are more willing to pay for Internet content than non-Whites.
-- Mid-singles (30-49) are the age group most willing to pay for Internet content; as expected, seniors (65+) are least willing. Most likely this is because although seniors have always paid for newspapers and magazines, they received free T.V. for such a long period of time that they're less willing to change their habits.
-- College graduates are more than twice as willing to pay for Internet content than high school graduates.
-- People earning $75,000 per year are more willing to pay for Internet content than those earning less than $30,000. This is because richer people have a greater capacity to pay for home and mobile Internet service, which further underscores the importance of providing free Internet access at public libraries (and keeping those libraries open to perform that function) to better serve lower-income people.

Another section of the report provides a categorical breakdown of the types of content people are more willing to pay for.

Of course, income is the underlying issue beneath all these demographics. White college graduates are likely to earn a higher income than non-White high school graduates, so the income effect will percolate throughout all demographics. That's why another section of the report shows there are limits to how much people are willing to spend on content per month; 43 percent of respondents spend $10 or less per month on various forms of content.

Conclusion: Many newspapers are impaled upon the horns of an economic dilemma. They struggle with declining circulation rates, and have compensated by downsizing the product and cutting staff. Yet because they offered free content online to attract more circulation, they are understandably reluctant to begin commodifying that which has been free. In late 2009, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner seriously considered erecting a pay wall before quietly shelving the idea. It's a vicious cycle. If the newspapers are to be able to continue providing free basic news content online, perhaps they should partner with a proven profit-making enterprise to defray the costs. This means the Anchorage Daily News could partner with an enterprise providing music downloads, or partner with an enterprise providing movies and T.V. shows such as GCI.

Media stories about this survey which may be of interest include E-Commerce Times (a good analysis), Techzone360 (another good analysis), PC Magazine, Digital Trends, and Yahoo News (AP).


  1. When your way of life is being destroyed by invaders, the meek surrender and get trampled while the brave and righteous declare war. One never rids himself of his enemies by bribes, courtesy, wishful thinking or endless discussion.

  2. What a wonderful, loving, sharing we're-in-this-together place this is. We share our money and their diverse diseases. God must have loved mud for He created so much of it.

  3. When idiots are supported by unscrupulous lawyers, you have the making of a comic tragedy. Pizza Hut is taking Papa John's -- both make lousy pizza -- to federal court over what they believe to be a negative "inference". The slogan "Better ingredients make better pizza," is the basis of the complaint. How paranoid can one get? (The answer becomes clear when one discovers the racial make-up of its owners.) Consider it this way: Suppose that Papa John's used worm-ridden, mouse turd contaminated flour (a real possibility?) and the customers complained about the taste. Now, "Better ingredients make better pizza," could be construed as a reflection upon themselves and perhaps even regarded as an excuse for their bad pizza.
    It has been said that we should kill all of the lawyers. It would be more wise to kill all of the idiots and then the lawyers would starve. In that way, it's two birds with one stone.

  4. Do deaf mutes have a right to free speech? Does anyone have a right to rights? If so, then they should also have a right to lefts. Otherwise, there'd be no sensible pairs even though pears don't care -- especially after they're pared regardless of how they were paired