New study identifies the reasons behind people’s reluctance to pay for news

Why won’t people pay for news? This question has long confounded media houses. A new study may have the answer(s).
Is it the price, the content, subscription fatigue, a lack of time to read, a “free mentality” or customer-service issues that are turning off readers’ willingness to pay for news?
Well, it’s all of the above, and more.
Asking “Why don’t people pay for news?”, assistant professor Tim Groot Kormelink and students of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s journalism department sought to answer a question that has confounded media houses around the world.
Taking a qualitative approach, 68 participants were provided with a free newspaper trial subscription and interviewed afterwards. Since the project focused on how new news habits start to form, the only selection criterion for participants was their interest in trying out a trial subscription.
Participants were offered a choice of four Dutch newspapers, De Volkskrant, Trouw, AD and Het Parool, as well as a full subscription (six-day print delivery plus digital access), weekend-only print delivery plus digital access, and a digital-only option.
‘Culture of free’
A “free mentality” is negatively correlated with paying for digital news, Groot Kormelink said. Being able to easily access a wealth of information online lowers its perceived value. Four dimensions of “the culture of free” were identified: online news as a public good, the habit of consuming news for free, free alternatives and a lack of interest in news.
Incidentally, a NiemanLab survey, titled Cancel Culture: Why Do People Cancel News Subscriptions? found ideology or politics to be a primary reason for cancelling. Other reasons were price, content that was not good enough, too little time to read and customer service issues.
In 2021, 17% of Dutch people paid for online news, which is the average among the 20 countries tracked in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report of 2021, but is low compared to Nordic countries like Norway (45%) and Sweden (30%). The report found print as a source of information in South Africa had dropped to 32% – 5% down from 2020. “It can only be a matter of time before we see more print titles closing,” Chris Roper, deputy CEO of Code for Africa, noted in the report, adding that not all the indicators are discouraging, as several news sites, such as Netwerk24 and Daily Maverick, have built sustainable businesses through a blended model of membership/subscription and advertising, plus investigative specialists such as the donor-funded amaBhungane.
Reasons not to pay ...