After more than a decade of cultivating a digital readership base, newspaper publishers may have finally realized that they’ve gutted their print advertising revenue with precious little to show for it on the digital side.
“Now that roughly a third of the nation’s newspapers are charging for access to their web and mobile content, the early evidence suggests that digital audiences aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about paying for news as publishers are about charging for it,” declares veteran media exec Alan D. Mutter.
News publishers may have been banking on turning a large portion of their readership into paying digital subscribers, but the numbers just don’t bear this out, according to Mutter.
He cites the latest report from the Alliance for Audited Media that shows Gannett, which publishes 81 daily papers in the US, with a relatively paltry 65,000 digital-only subscribers.
The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both show digital readership accounting for about a third of their total readership, while papers with less affluent readerships are lagging far behind. And even those two popular titles are only reaching a tiny fraction of the available Internet-connected audience.
So is the general population willing to pay for digital news content? Not likely, Mutter thinks, and he has an interesting take on why not.
“…the simple answer may be that most consumers would rather pay for movies and music than for news, which is widely available for free at any number of sites ranging from Yahoo and Google News to Huffington Post and the Drudge Report.”
Which explains why 29 million people are happily paying for digital subscriptions to watch movies (Netflix), 3.5 million pay for the Major League Baseball app, and Gannett’s numbers barely show up on the chart as much more than a blip.