PCUK/Harris Poll: Readers Prefer Subscriptions To Micropayments

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On Monday, we revealed how, if their favourite news site started charging for content, just five percent of Brits would pay. So exactly how would users prefer to cough up their cash?

Day two in our exclusive paidContent:UK/Harris Interactive poll shows that a long-term subscription, and not micropayments, is by far the most attractive option to consumers

(Return to paidContent:UK on Wednesday and Thursday to learn readers’ all-important favoured pricepoint and more).

We asked users who read a news site at least once a month what their favoured option would be if they either chose to pay for their favourite site or were forced to pay by all news sites going pay-for…

Per-article fees (ie. micropayments) are the favourite option for 21 percent.

A day pass giving unlimited articles within a 24-hour period is favoured by 26 percent.

— But a subscription of up to a year is the most desired model, supported by 54 percent.

The findings may surprise advocates of what are often called “iTunes-style” “micro” payments – an ironic description since, while App Store downloads are blissfully effortless, its pay-for apps, which come at a minimum £0.59, are far from micro in price.

Annual subscriptions are already commonplace amongst B2B magazines and business newspapers like FT.com and WSJ.com. In music, Spotify operates a £120 annual membership as well as its £9.99-a-month and £0.99-a-day tiers. And many consumers are used to paying monthly for TV services like BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), and home utilities.

No matter what the price, any model that asks readers to pay once (or only occasionally) is likely to be far less complex and more workable than a system requiring transactions for every individual piece of content. But, while certain specialist publishers should prove able to sell their unique content in this way, we at paidContent:UK remain uncertain that mass-market newspapers, whose content has long been free online, can successfully attract paying customers through any of these models if they do not differentiate or offer significant value-adds.

“There’s been a lot of buzz about micro-payment recently, and some prominent players, like Google (NSDQ: GOOG), have moved into this field

2 Comments

Simon R

I'd question the methodology here:

Firstly the question is about news sites – newspapers are no longer news papers, they're mini-magazines with a slant on the news, a bunch of feature articles, a slab of opinion and a whole load more. So in the phrasing of this question (and related ones) the emphasis is on paying for news: people who pay somewhere between 20p and £1 or so for their daily paper are rarely, these days, paying for news. They're paying for some news-ish content and the melange of slant and features that the Sun / Guardian / Mail / etc provide.

Secondly – those people who pay somewhere between 20p and £1 or so for their daily paper generally do exactly that: pay daily. Or once or twice at the weekend, having read online (for free) in the week. So there's a model missing in the question that is most analogous to how people generally pay: per issue, which doesn't equate directly to an online day. The closest model online to a day's issue would be (while papers still appear offline as well as on) a micropayment allowing access to the online stories published in this morning's offline issue (for morning papers) with maybe a small amount extra for updates to those stories and perhaps any others published up to the publication point of tomorrow's issue. This is how I tend to read my paper of choice right now – downloading news and comment feeds to my iPhone RSS reader most mornings to read offline underground, and updating occasionally during the day. I'd be more than happy to pay ~50p per day to do keep doing exactly that.

People have the option to pay for paper publications that are explicitly magazines (or even the Economist which calls itself a 'newspaper') on subscription and most tend not to. I'd suggest that if offered an issue-based payment model for "news" sites (what else could we call them?), and if they were actually taken through a mock-up of how this might work versus other options (rather than just asked the question cold) there would be a rather different outcome than that of the survey above.

Anyone fancy performing this variant survey?

Greg Golebiewski

I do not know where Mr. Andrew Freeman assertions come from, but he is mistaken. Micropayments, especially the pre-paid, aggregated model is far less expensive to administer than any day-pass, long-term subscription, not to mention, mobile/SMS-payment platforms.

Yes, volume is important, but it does not have to be enormous. Content generating between 100K to 1M qualified clicks (paid micro transactions) a month can cost content providers as little as 2.4% +$0.02 per click. Considering that the new generation of micropayments does not require any infrastructure or costly integration on the part of the content providers — they can be used as SaaS — they are the CHEAPEST and most convenient ways to monetize selected content.

These type of micropayments are also very safe, as they do not require disclosing any personal nor credit card info to the publishers (and online spyware). All financial info is processed within the safe (as safe as it gets now) banking system, separately from users' real-time orders or clicks to access the paid content.

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