A Pew Research Center study has some interesting conclusions about on-line advertising, says Ars Technica. On-line ad revenue declined by a total of $1 billion last year, falling for the first time since 2002. 81% of respondents said that they didn’t mind on-line advertising in return for free content.

However, only 7% of consumers said they would be willing to pay for news—most said they would simply look somewhere else if their favorite site erected a paywall.

Ars Technica recently experimented with blocking content to users of ad-blocking software, then posted an editorial haranguing users of ad-blockers for costing the site revenue. Ars also offers a premium program where users can pay for benefits and to support the site.

The on-line content industry should be paying attention to this kind of survey—when compared to news sites’ plans to press ahead with charging for content, it makes it appear that they and their audience are living on entirely different planets.


  1. No shock.
    Most of us have learned to ignore web ads.
    Most web sites have a standardzed layout so if you visit the same site regularly the focus will follow the content and ignore the ads.
    It isn’t even a matter of tuning them out, like on TV; I literally don’t see them, they don’t register on my consciousness at all.
    I doubt I’m the only one.

  2. Interesting coincidence. I posted this morning on my An American Editor blog an article on newspapers and paywalls “Is Rupert Right? Newspapers & the Paywall” (http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/is-rupert-right-newspapers-the-paywall/). I think a paywall for certain newspapers — those with high credibility and long-standing reputations for accuracy, such as the WSJ, the NYT, and The Economist — are right to go behind a paywall and we should pay for them.

    The one thing the Pew survey didn’t adequately address (at least as far as I can tell) is the distinction between news originators and news aggregators. I think this is an important distinction and the former need paywalls whereas the latter do not, but the latter need to support the former or there will be no original or investigative reporting — a great loss to a democratic society.

  3. Felix Torres is on target. There does come a time when we become “cognitively blind” to certain stimulus cues. But there’s an additional problem with paywalls — people are unwilling to pay unless there’s something of value behind the wall. Unfortunately, what the print media provides usually isn’t worth it. Online news sources are faster and more timely than print media, and, from my experience,about as accurate (or inaccurate). Newspapers like to say that the blogosphere doesn’t have the resources to do real investigative journalism. True, but then again, how often do we see newspapers doing “real investigative journalism?” We no longer live in the era of Watergate or the Pentagon Papers. Most of what I see in the NYT and WAPO nowadays is nothing more than opinion masquerading as analysis. Hey, I can get that for free.

  4. The only problem with Felix Torres’ tuning them out is, if everybody did it, then ads would evolve into consumer interactive programs. For example, read half an article then watch an ad that takes overs the whole page; at the end, the user must interact with the ad — if for dog treats, the user must use the mouse to drag an imagine of the dog treats box to the dog or the trash can. Dragging to the dog will open an order form and make the dog happy, the trash can will animate the dog image with sad eyes and a whimper before closing. Would consumers will prefer those kind of ads to a paywall?

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