Monday, September 07, 2009

Why charging for online newspaper content won't work

This is the best argument against newspapers charging for content that I've seen so far - the numbers simply don't stack up:

To paraphrase Peter Preston, taking data from Nielsen in the US:

Only 1/3 of American internet users visit a newspaper site in a typical month.
Six of the top 10 US news sites aren't newspaper sites, they're from portals like Yahoo, or TV stations like CNN
The average visitor to individual newspaper sites don't spend long on them - for example 9 minutes 9 seconds for the New York Times, 3 minutes 11 seconds for the Miami Herald, and 5 minutes 45 seconds for the Washington Times.
For those sorts of patterns people aren't going to be willing to pay.

Peter Preston doesn't have access to the UK figures, but I do.

From comScore's UK panel, July 2009:
Daily Mail - 4.1 million visitors, making an average of 2.6 visits per month, and spending 13.6 minutes in total per month
The Guardian - 4.0m visitors, making an average of 2 visits a month, and spending an average of 5.8 minutes
The Sun - 3.9m visitors, 3.1 visits, 19.3 minutes
The Telegraph - 3.6m visitors, 1.9 visits, 5.4 minutes
The Times - 2.4m visitors, 2.2 visits, 6.4 minutes
The Mirror - 2.1m visitors, 1.9 visits, 3.7 minutes
The Independent - 1.5m visitors, 1.6 visits, 3.4 minutes
News of the World - 1m visitors, 1.6 visits, 9.2 minutes

From this you can see that people spend much less time with online versions of newspapers than with the printed versions. People read online newspapers in different ways, going to a specific story and reading that rather than reading lots of content in a local way. (You can in fact make more of a case for loyalty and time spent with the News International titles - The Sun, The Times, News of the World - than the others, but in all cases time spent is low compared to print versions.)

I'm predicting that the newspapers will never fully take up the charging model, instead they will encourage people to join loyalty schemes where people pay for benefits (cheaper phone calls, preferential access to events, cheaper car insurance, daily deals, wine clubs etc) rather than specifically pay for online newspapers. They'll also have to allow casual surfers, so that the benefit that newspapers see from the link economy will remain.

See also - this recent partnership between Sky and the 02:

"U.K. digital satellite broadcaster Sky has signed a five-year deal with AEG to become a brand partner for the O2 entertainment complex in London, which will include a customer reward program for VIP access to events at the venue and TV rights."

1 comment:

Ed said...

Agree, can´t see how newspapers can charge online. Business articles (with analysis), yes. But not ordinary news items.
I can see newspapers focusing more on print version of Sunday newspaper - continuing to charge for that.
I can see broadsheets making money online by charging companies for publicity for business events and services. And the tabloids more with the kinds of offerings you mention in your article.
Don´t know. Difficult one to crack.

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