May 12, 2017

Most Americans say they pay for news

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Since the election, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Tronc, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Gannett have all reported jumps in subscriptions. Now a new study from the AP NORC Center and American Press Institute finds that a majority of Americans (53%) pay for news, and of those, a majority (54%) subscribe to newspapers in print or online.

Why it matters: A surge in subscription numbers across all types of newspapers, combined with the recent AP/API report, dispel the notions that people are unwilling to pay for news and that people are abandoning newspaper coverage. The report also found a clear association also between trust of news sources and paying for news.

The downside: Subscription revenue is still a long way from replacing plunging ad revenue.

Key takeaways:

  • Uptick in subscriptions is bipartisan: A surge in subscriptions from both newspapers that lean left editorially (NYT) and right (WSJ) show that the desire to pay for reliable coverage exists regardless of party affiliation.
  • If newspapers want to charge more, now is the time to do it: According to the AP/API study, those who currently pay for a subscription tend to think it is relatively inexpensive. Only 10% of people think their subscription costs too much for what they get.
  • A willingness to pay for news exists at all age ranges: A breakdown of subscribers by age shows that people of all ages are willing to pay for news, but not surprisingly, digital subscription purchases sway much younger.
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Data: The Media Insight Project, survey conducted Feb. 16-March 20, 2017; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

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