New research has laid bare the full extent of the challenge facing publishers in their efforts to entice audiences to loosen their purse strings after finding widespread resistance to the idea of paying for content.
Comscore’s report, dubbed From Viral to Tribal, found the vast majority of respondents on both sides of the Atlantic don’t pay for news, ranging from 77% of UK millennials up to a staggering 97% of US Gen X’ers.
This low base flies in the face of a recent proliferation of subscription news services from the likes of The New York Times, Bloomberg and Vanity Fair but did contain a glimmer of hope however with many prepared to cough up for material which carried particular utility, exclusivity or ‘premium’ qualities.
In this way, Titles such as The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have flourished by furnishing subscribers with salient financial data while titles such as TheSkimm find their niche by providing lifestyle tools such as a pop culture calendar.
Exclusive content meanwhile has been capitalized on by the likes of The Information and The Athletic which offer a mix of in-depth and original reporting which cannot be matched by general interest sites. Finally premium content is the bread and butter of services like Hulu and Crunchyroll to stand apart.
The New York Times, in particular, has been able to capitalise on such sentiments by growing its digital subscriber base to 3.3m last year. In its report, ComScore observed: “The publisher cited its discounted introductory offer, the growth of its tertiary products such as its exclusive cooking app and digital crosswords, as well as its blockbuster content like the Kavanaugh hearings and ‘Anonymous’ as key drivers of this growth. So, while audiences say they won't pay for news, clearly, if they receive value beyond just paying for the news, as The New York Times has demonstrated, publishers can find success.”
The report read: "From a content perspective, it appears crucial for publishers to find ways to bring to life how big news events directly impact younger consumers - and bring this level of impact to the forefront when they present news (whether through headlines or social media posts).
"As far as news delivery, publishers need to foster and maintain relationships with device manufacturers and wireless companies to ensure that their brands are prominently featured wherever their content is distributed."
Last month The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019 surveyed more than 75,000 people in 38 markets and clocked in at a beastly 91,000 words. They starkly set out the challenges facing the media business today.
It contextualised the difficulties in sustainably funding digital news media “amid a backdrop of rising populism, political and economic instability” and the ever-present threat of giant tech companies keen for a slice of the pie.
This year there were thousands of layoffs across digital media and only a “small increase” in the number of people paying for online news – whether by subscription, membership or donation.