Online news: the “free of charge” trend is changing

Online news: the “free of charge” trend is changing

Online news are increasing, indeed, booming, but newspapers are still mainly paper based. This might have made sense twenty, twenty-five years ago, when smartphones had not been invented, yet, and the majority of people didn’t have an internet connection neither at home nor at work. Nowadays, on the contrary, it seems quite strange to think that publishers may derive their income mainly from printed papers.  The reason is easy, though: readers who have been used to getting news for free, are not willing to pay. So far, at least, since, as shown by News brands and reader subscriptions, a recent survey published by Enders Analysis, things are changing. And newspapers must find the right formula to promote digital subscriptions.

Actually fake news, instead of putting readers off, are pushing them to search for more reliable, professional and well known sources. Basically, the general mistrust of clickbait news coincides with a renewed trust into professional journalists. This also means that should paywall be more widespread and adopted by all publishers,  the  percentage of readers ( 54% ) who are not willing to pay for news they can easily find for free online, may decrease as well as the percentage ( 29% ) of those who read newspapers supplying free contents, as confirmed by the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017, which also reveals that young people are more willing than adults and elderly people to subscribe to paid news services.

Actually, the free news Vs paid news ratio is changing and newspapers should start preparing some offers issued on the basis of data concerning the demographics of their readers so as to take back even small niches of the market accounting for 4% of readers which would equal to big amounts of money. The point is that, at the moment, there is no online standard for one-click payments, such as micro-payments or micro-subscriptions, to be applied to media (Micropayments and Microsubscriptions: Beyond advertising)

Two giants of the digital world, Facebook e Google, have been trying to get things moving, of course, in their own interest. Actually, thanks to its First Click Free, allowing users to subscribe to news services by using their Google log in and payment data, the Big G is helping publishers. Like Facebook that, through its ‘Call To Action unit’, allows users to easily subscribe to Instant Articles and, unlike Google, lets publishers manage both the payment process and the relationship with customers-readers. This should boost subscriptions and allow media to make a living out of them and of digital advertising instead of printed paper.

We are witnessing to a revolution and publishers should not miss this appointment if they don’t want to succumb and they should also come up with more innovative ideas based on a better knowledge of their audience.

Are you willing to pay for verified news from professional sources? And if you are not, explain your reasons by tweeting @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world you may read my latest book entitled: “People Are Media” 

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