The Reuters Institute Digital News Report found five per cent of its sample had paid for digital news in the last week, though 50 per cent had paid for a printed newspaper.
Reuters said “we’ve seen a signiﬁcant rise in the number of respondents paying for online news – albeit from a low base”, since its first report in 2012.
Professor Robert Picard, director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, wrote in the Guardian that the report “also shows that digital consumers now seem more willing to pay for news, and that new digital platforms such as tablets and smartphones are playing particularly important roles, contributing to the shift in public attitudes.”
Though five per cent remains a low figure, the report argued this was due to the fact most newspapers still do not charge for online news, though paywalls are continuing to be erected. A significant percentage of those not currently paying said they were likely to do so at some point in the future.
People in the 25-34 age group are the most likely to pay for digital news, the report found, with richer households twice as likely to pay.
Computers remain the preferred device for accessing online news, but the number accessing it from multiple devices is on the increase. One-third of Reuters’ sample receives news on at least two devices, with nine per cent using more than three.
“Some news organisations are looking to exploit niches, others are pushing for scale and paywalls are going up around the world. As ever, success will depend on a combination of clear strategies and a strong understanding of changing audience behaviours,” the report authors said.
Picard said though those paying for digital content was on the increase, publishers still faced a challenge in deciding whether or not to move to a paywall.
“Although there is reason for publishers to feel some relief, harnessing the new revenue streams is not a simple choice of whether or not you ask digital readers to pay,” he said.
“A lot of strategic decisions have to be made about which of the different pay systems they adopt, given they produce varying results and some newspapers are better placed to benefit from pay systems than others.”
He said, however, there have been “a few cases” of publishers obtaining significant digital revenues, though these were primarily leading national news providers.
“Hopes for digital revenues are thus no longer a distant and seemingly unobtainable dream for publishers,” he said. “The digital world will not yield income that print publishing produced in the 1990s, but revenues and profits from digital revenues are rising and some publishers as now finding workable strategies that make the future look more promising.”