Reuters Institute’s Digital Media Report
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism publishes its Digital News Report on an annual basis, with plenty of excellent analysis and insights into the news business. The 2019 edition had a particularly interesting part, “Paying for News and the Limits of Subscription” by Richard Fletcher. The report is well worth reading in its entirety, but here I’ll summarize the main points:
Most payments for news are now “ongoing” payments. This includes subscriptions, even when they’re bundled with something like cable and broadband. One-off payments for news have been stagnating.
LIMITS TO SUBSCRIPTIONS
In certain markets, particularly Europe and Japan, most news is free at the point of consumption. This reduces consumers’ incentive to actually pay, since they’re able to get everything they need from free sources.
A question frequently posed is not only whether consumers are willing to pay for news, but how many subscriptions they’re willing to maintain. And the answer is very clear: one. This is true across both the income and education spectrums, as well as general interest in news.
SUBSCRIPTIONS TO OTHER MEDIA
In today’s world, the fact is that news subscriptions compete with plenty of other media subscriptions (think Netflix or Spotify). When asked about which subscription they’d keep if they could only keep one, only 7% of responders under 45 picked news.
TWO TIER NEWS ENVIRONMENT
The rise of paywalls and all-or-nothing subscriptions has gotten many concerned about “two-tier news evironments”. Namely, that those willing to pay will get high-quality news whereas others will get attention-grabbing junk. In fact, the report finds that those willing to pay are in addition to that heavy consumers of free sources as well, thereby limiting the asymmetry.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC BROADCASTERS
The report shows that the presence of a trusted public broadcaster in markets such as many European countries tends to lead to higher trust scores of media in general.
In any case, I found this report highly illuminating, and would encourage you to read the whole thing!