The Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, takes a look at the future of news and concludes that subscription models are the only hope because aggregators such as Facebook and Google will take most of the digital advertising dollars.
How many people pay for news? In all, 53 percent of Americans pay for news, including subscribing to newspapers or magazines, paying for news apps, or donating to public media. This number does not include those who pay for cable TV bundles that could include news channels.
Do young people pay for news? Fully 37 percent of the youngest adults, 18 to 34 years old, subscribe to news. The two youngest age cohorts who pay (18-34 and 35-49) also behave differently than older subscribers. They are motivated more by a desire to support the news organization’s mission. About two-thirds of them who use Facebook use it several times a day (compared with half of older subscribers), and many say that discovering a news source through social media was a key factor in deciding to pay for it.
What value do people see in news? People are drawn to news in general for two reasons above others: A desire to be informed citizens (newspaper subscribers in particular are highly motivated by this) and because the publication they subscribe to excels at covering certain topics about which those subscribers particularly care.
Why do people choose to subscribe? While there are a host of reasons, the No. 1 cited (by more than 4 in 10 subscribers) was that the publication they pay for excels at covering certain topics about which they particularly care. More than 4 in 10 also cite the fact that friends and family subscribe to the same product. More than a third of people say they originally subscribed in response to a discount or promotion. In print, people also are moved heavily to subscribe to get coupons that save them money, something that has untapped implications in digital.
Who does not pay for their news? Of those who do not pay for news at all, many resemble subscribers in a variety of ways. About half are “news seekers,” meaning they actively seek out news rather than primarily bumping into it in a more passive way, though the news that nonpayers are seeking (for now, at least) is often about national politics. Like subscribers, many of these people also get news multiple times a day, use the news in ways similar to subscribers, and are interested in similar topics, including foreign or international news. Nonpayers, though, generally see news as a little less valuable in their lives and think that there is plenty of free content available.