If this were a news article, would you pay to read it?
If so, under what conditions would you consider it? Does it matter what brand is presenting the news or the source of information when weighing your willingess to pay for content online? How much would you be willing to pay?
These are just a few of the questions I’ve been studying in recent months. Regardless of whether you think you should pay for news content on the Web, a majority of newspaper executives plan to start charging online in the next year.
As a result, the debate over implementing micropayments, where a user pays a small fee per article, has resurfaced in recent months. As a journalism scholar, I’ve been examining micropayments from many angles.
First, I’ve been working with colleagues of mine in the Grady College to gauge consumer willingness to pay for online content through a series of surveys and experiments.
Earlier this month, my co-author Amy Sindik presented findings of one of our studies at the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication Mid-Winter conference in Norman, Oklahoma.
The findings of our study, “Newspaper Micropayments and Millennial Generation Acceptance: A Brand Loyalty Perspective” are quite promising for The New York Times, which plans to charge for content next year.
The Times website is a trusted brand, and that brand trust has a statistically significant relationship to willingness to pay for Times’ content online. Overall, The New York Times itself is a powerful brand that fosters consumer loyalty and gratifications. Overall, The New York Times clearly appears to be the most strategically poised brand name newspaper to implement a paid system. Given that consumers are more willing to pay for online content from the Times than any other newspaper, the implication might be that if doesn’t work for The New York Times, it can’t work for anybody.
On the flip end, our study suggests that local newspapers may have a tougher time nudging consumers toward a willingness to pay for online news. Only 3% of respondents indicated a willingness to pay for content from the local newspaper.
Regardless, local newspapers will want to watch with interest as The New York Times’ foray into online content plays out over the next year. As an industry leader, and arguably the most viable and credible newspaper brand, the success or failure of The New York Times payment effort could be a harbinger for the rest of the industry. Our study suggests that readers are more likely to pay for online content from the Times than any other local, regional or national newspaper.
The plan from the Old Gray Lady, however, is a “metered” model, not a micropayment model. There are many experts who believe micropayments will never work. I’m not convinced. Under the right circumstances, micropayments could succeed. I’ll outline how next month in Austin.
Along with my co-author, Jameson L. Hayes, I’ll present The Case for a Modified News Micropayment Model on the Social Web at the International Symposium on Online Journalism.
In the meantime, feel free to start a conversation and join the discussion on the future of online news payments.