A new survey says the public will pay for media content — if the need/reason is adequately explained.
"When participants were provided with a compelling justification for the paywall -- that The New York Times was likely to go bankrupt without it -- their support and willingness to pay increased," Cook and Attari concluded.
Again, take that Jay Rosen Jeff Jarvis Clay Shirky and other new media fluffers who tout "no paywalls" for selfish reasons:.
That said, the survey authors note that many people will believe the “information wants to be free” quote out of context and misinterpreted means they should get newspaper stories for free:
Of course, with more and more papers adopting paywalls, that option is shrinking. The key will be AP (and Reuters and AFP) continuing to up their rates they charge news aggregators.Those publishers should also consider this cautionary note: a majority of The New York Times readers surveyed by Cook and Attari said they wouldn't pay for content and made good on their threat, often by switching to free providers. "The decline reported in our study is echoed in the decrease of over 3.3 million unique website visitors reported in The New York Times marketing materials between the spring of 2011 and 2012," Cook and Attari wrote.
Back to the main thrust of the story.
Newspapers need to tell a compelling story about the need for paywalls, based on declines in ad revenue, cost of news production and other issues. That may include at least partially laying open the financial books, and explaining that some types of ad revenue, like classifieds and real estate, may never fully bounce back.
At the same time, this is an opportunity for a newspaper to increase its “community” angle, by inviting the community to see and understand more of the business model of its newspaper.