Time to pay
While a majority of European newspapers and news magazines are moving away from digital news provided for free and supported by display advertising, reader revenues, though on the up, rarely make up for declining legacy revenues and a difficult digital advertising market, according to the Pay Models in European News report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
The research finds that a much larger share of newspapers and news weeklies in Finland (87%), France (95%), and Poland (90%) have gone ahead and adopted pay models. Significantly, these are markets that are either dominated by a limited number of very strong incumbents (Finland) or markets where the digital display advertising market is very small (Poland).
In both Italy and the United Kingdom, most newspapers and weeklies continue to offer free access to digital news, while in Germany almost half of newspapers and weeklies deliver free content. And that behaviour is largely driven by fear. “These are very competitive markets where even leading titles are worried about losing market share if they implement pay models,” says the report.
However, news organisations offering free access might still be asking for other forms of compensation. Finish regional newspaper Huvudstadsbladet, for example, only allows users to read articles free of charge when they registee with an account (or via Facebook or Google+). German regional paper Rheinische Post delivers free content but if readers prefer not to see ads, they need to get themselves a sub.
But there is appetite for paid news.
“Research suggests that some people across all age groups, including younger media users, are willing to pay for quality content and services online that they find valuable and useful,” says the report. “The challenge for news organisations now is to deliver such quality content and services.”