Australians think paywalls are annoying: Survey

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 14 June 2019

Australian news consumers have little desire to pay for news subscriptions with some considering paywalls to be “annoying” and “unethical”, according to a survey. 

The Digital News Report: Australia 2019, published by The University of Canberra, shows the results of an online YouGov survey from January to February this year.

The sample was drawn from 72,242 Australians, with respondents required to have consumed news in the past month.

The survey found Australian news consumers would rather pay for entertainment services than news, with only 9% choosing online news subscription as their first priority from seven different types of digital subscription services.

Paying for online news came in fourth behind video streaming services as the most popular, at 34%, followed by music streaming services and people not wanting to pay for any services.

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Peter Miller, NewsMediaWorks CEO, says the figures aren’t surprising given it’s still a relatively young market.

“There are, according to January emma, 15.7 million digital news media readers and users. 9% of that universe is 1.5 million so there is plenty of upside to convert casual online readers into paying readers,” he says.

“We are very optimistic that these figures will increase.

“As news media consumers are now reminded daily of the importance and value of journalism and press freedom, the market will grow.

“The world of digital subscription understanding is evolving. Publishers are learning how to engage readers online more deeply in order to convert them into paid subscriptions.

Respondents who use social media as their main source of news were found to be least likely to subscribe to online news.

However, those who rely on print newspapers for news are the most likely to pay for online news, at 15%.

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Most Australians, 83%, are blocked by paywalls at least once a month. For 52% of respondents, they encounter it at least weekly, and only 17% say they’ve never encountered a paywall.

A majority of respondents thought paywalls are either “unfair and annoying”, “necessary for quality journalism” or thought that “information that is critical to citizens should be free, such as local news”.

“I do understand that the organisations need to be able to make profits, however, this can be seen as annoying and inconvenient for the consumer and is likely to repel potential customers,” one non-paying newsreader says.

“I think it’s terrible. Important news should be available to everybody, not just those that can afford it,” a news subscriber says.

Another says that while a paywall is justified for content that isn’t of “high importance”, putting local news events, such as government related news and terrorist attacks, behind a paywall isn’t “ethical”.

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