Has COVID-19 made readers more willing to pay for news?

18 June 2020


A report just released by Reuters suggests this is the case. The percentage of people around the world willing to pay for news has continued to increase, even during the pandemic. The big news from last year’s report was that more publishers were putting up paywalls and that doesn’t seem to have stopped people from accessing content as more people are seemingly paying too.
The number of US readers paying for news is up from 16% to 20% and in Norway it’s up from 34% to 42%. Rises were also seen in Portugal, Netherlands, and Argentina.
Interestingly, it seems that many people are paying for more than one subscription too, often to a national and a regional title. However, this is not as common in the UK. In fact, the report concluded that readers paying for news in the UK is yet to really take off as fewer than one in ten paid to access news over the past year. One potential reason for this is because there’s only a relatively small number of publications in the UK charging for news. The report cited Norway as being one of the countries with the most publications sitting behind a paywall, especially when it comes to regional titles.
The report also looked into what made readers pay for news, the results were complex but one highlight was that the inclusion of puzzles and recipes helped to provide an added sense of value. Many publishers include access to this content within their core news offering.
– Digital-only subscriptions to a single brand are the most popular form of access
– Print-digital bundles were most successful in Norway
– Pain news aggregators were relatively popular in the US, however, much less common
Looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic had specifically affected a reader’s likelihood to pay, the report stated;
“The seriousness of this crisis has reinforced the need for reliable, accurate journalism that can inform and educate populations, but it has also reminded us how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation.”
For many publishers, the pandemic has forced them to consider their digital strategies, with some even considering an all-digital future.

*The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report for 2020 surveyed more than 80,000 people in 40 countries about their digital news consumption