Free news gets scarcer as paywalls tighten
For some analysts, the trend reflects a normalization of a situation that has existed since the early internet days that enabled consumers to get accustomed to the notion of free online content.
“I think there is a definite trend for people to start paying for at least one news source,” said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst who follows digital media for Kaleido Insights.
Lieb said consumers have become more amenable to paying for digital services and that investigative reporting on politics in Washington and elsewhere has made consumers aware of the value of journalism.
A study last year by the Media Insight Project found 53 percent of Americans have paid for at least one news subscription. A separate report by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute found two-thirds of European newspapers used a pay model.
“Services like Netflix and Spotify have helped people get into the habit of paying for digital content they used to get for free,” said Damian Radcliffe, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon and a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
“People recognize that if you value journalism, especially in the current political climate, you need to pay for it.”
– Making the transition –
Newspapers seeking to make a transition from print to digital have found it difficult to replace the advertising revenues that were long the staple of the publications.
News organizations are unable to compete against giants like Google and Facebook for digital advertising, and are turning increasingly to readers.
“For large-scale news organizations whether they are national or regional, that want to have a large reporting staff, reader revenue needs to be the number one source,” said Ken Doctor, a media analyst and consultant who writes the Newsonomics blog.
Doctor said some news organizations are getting close to 50 percent of revenues from subscriptions and sees that rising to as much as 70 percent.
The New York Times reported the number of paid subscribers grew to 2.6 million and that subscriptions accounted for 60 percent of 2017 revenues. The Washington Post last year touted it had more than one million paid digital readers.
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