Survey shows 5% say they would pay for news online

image A Harris research poll commissioned by paidContent:UK found that 5% of respondents think they would pay for news online, with the vast majority saying that instead they would simply go to an alternative free site.

If the 5% panned out in practice (and surveys are notoriously bad predictors of buying behaviour, so there is considerable downside risk to this figure) then a back of the envelope calculation shows that even with a fairly modest charge of £3-5 per month the subscription revenues gained are likely to significantly exceed the ad revenues lost from the 95% who decide to go elsewhere, so there is some good news in this figure.

The bad news, however, is that these revenues won’t add up to much of a total when compared with traditional hardcopy paper sales.

So we are looking at another story of the transition to digital shrinking an industry.

The only option I can see on the table for newspapers to mitigate this development is to build vibrant communities around their properties (as I have said before).  The catch, though, is that it is prohibitively hard to build a community whilst charging for content.

It is interesting to note that the newspaper that has had the most success building an online community (the Guardian, owner of paidContent) is also the one that is most opposed to charging.