New Study Links Subscription Rates To Cost of Living

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More than a fifth (21%) of Americans pay for their online news, compared to an average of 17% worldwide.

That’s according to new research from Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, which analyzed sample groups from 20 countries worldwide and found that, for most, “payment for online news is leveling off with high levels of cancellation strongly linked to the cost-of-living crisis.”

The study looked at the last year of subscriptions around the world, finding the highest percentages of subscribers in Norway (39%), Sweden (33%), Australia (22%), and Finland (21%). “But in many larger European markets where there is a good supply of high-quality free news, such as Germany (11%) and the UK (9%), far fewer are currently paying,” the study says.

(Source: Reuters Institute)

In the United States, 4% of those sampled donate to new organizations, from established brands like NPR to podcasters and YouTubers. Additionally, 47% of those paying for news say they do so out of partisan loyalty or brand-stances.

“News subscribers are attracted by a combination of distinctive high-quality, curated, and exclusive content, identification with the brand, a desire to support quality journalism, and a higher-quality user experience,” the study found. “The appeal of each element partly depends on the market, including the quality and range of available free content. Beyond that, certain triggers such as cheap offers can be used to entice new subscribers, but they are unlikely to maintain their payment unless other conditions are satisfied.”

The research also interviewed “lapsed subscribers” in the United States, Germany, and the UK to get a better understanding of their financial considerations and how “the squeeze on household spending has affected consumer thinking.” While inflation and energy-price hikes aren’t as severe in the United States, cost-of-living is a consideration.

“The high price of news subscriptions (especially after trials ended), compared with the perceived value that people felt they were getting, was a regular theme,” the study found. “People were conscious if they hadn’t used their subscription enough for it to feel ‘worth it.’”

The study points out that while 83% from the sampled countries are not paying for news (and that 49% of Americans specifically say nothing could persuade them to do so), there are still potential subscribers who could be “enticed by a lower price, more relevant content, or a better user experience.”

“Of these, our survey suggests that the factor that would make the biggest difference is price — (i) a lower, more affordable package, (ii) the ability to share the cost of subscriptions among friends and family, or (iii) a subscription that includes more value (some kind of bundle),” the study found. “Taken together, these options appeal to three in ten (29%) non-payers in the US and around a fifth in Germany (22%) and the UK (20%).”


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