Do Americans really hit Paywalls?
Just released survey by Paygo Media digs deeper into Americans' interactions with Paywalls. The survey was conducted in August 2020 on a representative sample of Americans over the age of 24 (n=324).
43% of Americans surveyed hit a Paywall
The proliferation of Paywalls has dramatically changed the American experience with Journalistic content. 43% of those randomly surveyed identified the concept of a Paywall and stated they get blocked by Paywalls when reading their news.
How often are Paywalls encountered?
72% of users who hit Paywalls seem to hit them very often
Of the users who state they hit Paywalls when reading their news, 72% hit it often, with 26.8% daily, 23.4% weekly and 22.3% “pretty often”. Of the 28% who hit it infrequently, 5.1% hit it monthly and 22% hit it “not very often”. Hitting Paywalls so frequently means that users are being conditioned to ignore, circumvent or change their consumption behaviors - turning the Paywalled content into a small and exclusive subscription group while most users gravitate to free content (regardless of quality).
Would readers pay to gain access to News?
30% of those hitting Paywalls would pay for Pay-as-you-go access
While the survey clearly shows that most users (70%) currently think they would not pay for news content, 30% explicitly say they would pay anywhere from 1-50 cents an article. Having 30% of a user base be willing to pay for something before seeing it in context hints at the pent up demand of a non-subscription option and clarity of the problem in users eyes. Interesting insight is that close to ⅔ of users willing to pay chose the 25-50 cents option. Publishers are clearly leaving money on the table but more importantly, they are not giving their potential users a path to read their content beyond the paywall except subscription. Users miss out on the opportunity to experience the content and build a deeper relationship with a new publisher beyond their subscription.
What would they pay for?
38% would pay for “any article if price was right” and 25% would pay for “unique investigative reporting”
When exploring what users value and would pay most for, the responses give more insights to user demand for news content. 38% say they would pay for “any article if the price was right”. This is a key insight into the user purchasing mindset - dynamic pricing that matches the price to the content type can lead to a significant cohort of users purchasing content vs reading it for free. “Unique investigative reporting” (25%) was the second most popular category users would pay more for. Other factors to consider are length of article (17%), “Prestigious Publication” (17%), “Specialized Content (i.e. Book reviews)” (10%) with “Famous Reporter or Writer” coming in at only 6.7%. Interesting insight that when the questions were structured this way (“What type of articles would you pay most for” vs “What is the most you would pay”) only 17% of users chose “None” (15.5%) or “I would not Pay” (1.8%) which raises the option of most users being willing to pay for the “right” content and “right” price, in their view.
This survey joins a growing body of research pointing to the risks of assuming that subscription is the “one size fits all” for publishers. This is detrimental to our democratic society as users are getting locked into one echo chamber of content views and losing out on diverse opinions due to the combination of subscription and Paywalls. In addition - Publishers are missing out on new and lucrative revenue streams, building better relationships with potential subscribers and not maximizing the return on the zero marginal cost digital content they produce