Majority of opinion formers think paid-for is best strategy for news organisations

Most (56%) opinion formers believe paid-for environments are the likeliest of the current models to become the most commercially viable and sustainable long-term option for the UK digital news market, new research for YouGov finds.

The study was undertaken among 739 journalists, political insiders, business leaders and NGOs for last night’s debate hosted by YouGov and London Press Club. It found that 42% think soft or metered paywalls are the most viable, with 14% thinking that hard paywalls make most long-term commercial sense.

However, only one in three (34%) think that such environments will be profitable enough to be commercially sustainable in current global market conditions where free quality digital news content remains widely available. The study also found that more than two fifths (43%) believe that paid-for models are not sustainable.

YouGov’s research, suggests that usage appears to drive belief in the power of paid-for models among those who have paid for news in the last 12 months. Across opinion formers and consumers, over four in ten (43%) believe that the paid-for model will deliver commercial success in today’s market conditions. However, just 8% of UK consumers find paid-for options appealing.

Importantly, nearly half (49%) of the opinion formers surveyed believe that consumers who access news sites via paywalls are more valuable than ones who don’t. As a result, they think that media owners are justified in charging advertisers premium rates to access consumers in a paid-for environment. By comparison, more than a third (37%) do not believe they are.

Dan Brilot, Consulting Media Director at YouGov, says: ‘Over the past couple of years different news outlets have tried different ways of making money from their digital operations. All we can say with any certainty at the moment is that the future of these models is unclear. The explosion in the consumption of digital news has led to the industry going through a period of large-scale disruption to its traditional business model.

‘The vast majority of opinion formers expect to see further major changes to how news is consumed and sold in the next 20 years, a view shared by most UK consumers. It is clear that opinion leaders believe that paid-for environments represent the current best sustainable option, even if they are not entirely sure that will be good enough to succeed in the current market where quality, free digital news content remains widely available.’

For more information on the survey please click here