Consumers to Resist Pay Walls

No surprises here: Forrester discusses the results of a consumer survey in which it’s reported that 80% won’t pay once the newspaper pay walls go up:

Picture 176

These data are consistent with a recent Harris survey that found largely the same thing:

Picture 177

Attitudes and behavior are frequently different so we’ll need to actually see what happens when the pay walls appear. But we can be relatively confident that a majority of consumers in the beginning will shun the paid content. The question is: what happens over time and will the publications hold on and be patient or will they blink if consumers push back and say “no”?

More interesting to me are the strategies that consumers find acceptable. In the first chart above a total of 16% seemed to say they would pay for a digital only subscription or a print-online-mobile subscription. Will enough of these people emerge to offset the ad losses from page views concealed behind pay walls? It’s an interesting question.


Related: Here’s yet another discussion of similar survey results from the Boston Consulting Group (reported in the NY Times):

Among regular Internet users in the United States, 48 percent said in the survey, conducted in October, that they would pay to read news online, including on mobile devices. That result tied with Britain for the lowest figure among nine countries where Boston Consulting commissioned surveys. In several Western European countries, more than 60 percent said they would pay.

When asked how much they would pay, Americans averaged just $3 a month, tied with Australia for the lowest figure — and less than half the $7 average for Italians. The other countries included in the study were Germany, France, Spain, Norway and Finland.


5 Responses to “Consumers to Resist Pay Walls”

  1. sanjiv Says:

    Not sure I believe anything consumers say in surveys when it comes to pricing behavior. Good article in the nytimes over the weekend that I’m sure you saw talking about cell phone plan purchase behavior. I’ve attached the follow on blog as it has some further insights.

    Though a different subject, in economic terms, the same principles about the irrational consumer apply

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yes, as I say: behavior and attitudes are often different. But price does determine a great deal of behavior. In the cellphone piece consumers are essentially deceived (it appears) by complex or not-totally-transparent pricing. But look at how handset pricing first drove iPhone sales (when prices came down) and now with other smartphones.

    We’ll have to see how consumers react to the pay walls. Another variable is alternative news sources: if other sources than the paid ones exist, consumers will continue to resist.

  3. Ad News and Views from Around the Web « Yahoo! Advertising Blog Says:

    […] resistance to pay walls Noting a Forrester study, blogger Greg Sterling shows that consumers are just not going to put up with pay walls when it comes to accessing online newspaper content. No one wants newspapers to succeed online more […]

  4. iPhone’s Culture of Paid Content « Screenwerk Says:

    […] it will be very difficult for newspapers (absent some clever pricing/bundling) to get people to pay for newspaper content […]

  5. Harris Poll: 77% Won’t Pay for News « Screenwerk Says:

    […] data are broadly consistent with past studies that show roughly 80% of users don’t want to pay for online access to news. However there is […]

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