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BizReport : Internet : April 18, 2011

81% Canadians oppose paying for online news

A survey for the Canadian Media Research Consortium makes interesting reading for news corporations in Canada that might be considering erecting paywalls around their content.

by Helen Leggatt

In an online survey of around 1,700 Canadians over half (52%) said the Internet was the best source of news and information.

Younger Canadians, aged between 18 and 34, were particularly passionate about online content and over three-quarters (77%) said the most interesting news was found online. Just 7% said the best news was found in print publications.

However, a whopping 81% of all respondents opposed paying for a digital subscription, 15% were undecided and just 4% were willing to pay.

Furthermore, 90% said they would seek out a free alternative if their preferred publication began charging for content.

"Online news consumers, long used to getting their news free when production costs were mostly subsidized by print and broadcast advertising, are balking at the idea of having to pay for content now that revenues are falling below the level needed to sustain media operations across various platforms," said Donna Logan, a professor emerita of the University of British Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and lead author of the study.

canadiansurvey.pngWhat if there were no free news alternatives available? Then, said 30% of survey respondents, they would concede to pay for news only. A flat-fee subscription was the favored payment model (34%) followed by metered pay-as-you-go models (20%). Per-day and per-article options were liked by very few, 6% and 4% respectively, and there was little support for mobile apps.

"If only consumers were as comfortable paying for content as owners would like them to be, the future would be a lot rosier," concludes the report. "Paywalls might work for selective publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and the Times of London but given current public attitudes, most publishers had better start looking elsewhere for revenue solutions."

Tags: Canada, digital content, digital subscription, news consumption, online news, paywall

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