thumb_creditcard_laptop_ars According to a recent Ars Technica article, Nielsen has surveyed over 27,000 customers in 52 countries with questions about what kinds of content they would be willing to pay for on-line. The results may hold out some hope for newspapers and magazines pondering retreating behind paywalls, but some other kinds of content might have more trouble.

The types of things consumers would pay for on-line seem by and large to be much the same sorts of things they pay for off-line—movies, music, and games, for instance. 50% of those polled seemed willing to pay for magazine content on-line, and 40% to pay for newspaper content.

I found it interesting that over 75% of those surveyed expected online content to be free if they already subscribed to the off-line version, and 71% would only pay for content if it was “considerably better” than free.

Ars notes that content at the bottom end of the willing-to-pay scale is content perceived as amateur-made, which has traditionally been free on the Internet—blogs, podcasts, and so on.

And it seems that the willingness to pay varies by demographic, with the demographic most willing to pay being the opposite of what conventional wisdom would lead you to expect.

Nielsen noted in its report that younger consumers are more willing to have already paid and be willing to pay for most types of content, for example, which is surprising given the popular perception that "kids these days" seem most likely to just go ahead and steal content. "[M]any so-called ‘digital natives’ know how to end-run pay sites and have done so in the past," wrote Nielsen. "But it reflects a realization that they are now in a world where the value of content is platform-agnostic; and video consumed online may be no less valuable than watched on television."

This offers some hope for papers such as the New York Times, which want to get subscribers to pay for their web content. In fact, it’s probably a fairly good thing, as it means that as time goes by and this generation ages, a higher proportion of people will be willing to buy on-line content and revenues might increase.


  1. I think too that as a lot of younger people grow up and start producing content and want to be paid for it, they realize that this content does have value and they support others who produce the things they enjoy. I really think the main issue right now is that digital media is not always convenient (locked to a device, restricted geographically etc) or of a quality high enough to make it a worthwhile value (I have commercial ebooks from mainstream authors which are riddled with errors—they really can’t expect us to pay $14 for such shoddy products!) If these problems are solved, I think there is potential for a lot more profit.

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