Little public support for online news subscriptions

Two new studies have found what many already suspected: Few Americans are willing to pay for online news. A Forrester survey found that almost 80 percent of Internet users in the United States and Canada would not pay for access to media Web sites. Another study, by the Boston Consulting Group, found more willing to pay, but the number was less than half the country, and they would pay very little for news.

Users in the Forrester survey who would consider paying for content are mostly interested in subscriptions. Yet, only 3 percent were interested in making micropayments.

The Boston Consulting Group study found that among regular Internet users in the United States, 48 percent said they would pay to read news online, including on mobile devices. But those same Americans would be willing to pay less money — only $3 a month — far less than citizens of other nations.

In several Western European nations where the Boston Consulting study was implemented — including Germany, France, Spain, Norway and Finland — more than 60 percent said they would pay for online news. Americans tied with Australians for last place in the world after saying they would pay only $3. That’s at least half the $7 average Italians said they would pay.

According to the Forrester study, media companies have two options: continue to offer free, ad-supported product, or offer consumers “a choice of multichannel subscriptions, single-channel subscriptions, and micropayments for premium product access.”

Forrester also recommended a third solution: have a third party subsidize the cost of the content. This could be an equipment manufacturer who wants to offer exclusive content, for example.