Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge consumers to access the online content of The News of the World, The Times and The Sun, have been dealt a fresh blow by research which shows few UK consumers would be willing to pay for content they can currently access for free.
A survey, based on more than 1,000 responses from UK media consumers, conducted by TheMediaBlog.co.uk, found just 28% of consumers would be prepared to pay to access online content they once accessed for free.
The big issue for News International, who this week confirmed plans to charge for online content, is its content is not seen as being unique or worth further spend by readers.
An overwhelming 75% of consumers said they do not believe any of the three UK News International newspapers produce the kind of content which cannot easily be found elsewhere.
There was some reassurance for The Times, with 21% of respondents saying they believe the paper does produce exclusive content. However, only four per cent of respondents said the same of the News of the World, while not a single respondent said The Sun offered anything they can’t find elsewhere online.
The most urgent problem for Murdoch would appear to be with the kind of content consumers are prepared to pay for. Not a single respondent said they would be prepared to pay for celebrity gossip or sport which account for much of The News of the World and The Sun’s content.
Columnists (28%) and exclusive interviews (13%) were the two most popular types of content respondents would be prepared to pay for.
Will Sturgeon, editor of The Media Blog, said: “Rupert Murdoch has been an incredible force in the media world but single-handedly redefining the economics of the web may be a step too far, even for him.
"Murdoch has had everything his own way for the past 40 years, since he bought The Sun, but the world has moved on. The vast amounts of information freely available online, and the apparent failure of the tabloids to differentiate themselves, means consumers clearly see little justification for charges to access online content.”
The research suggests overwhelmingly that Murdoch’s plans to charge for content will prove unsuccessful.
Asked which of a selection of statements they agreed with most, 44% of respondents chose: “Newspapers will never successfully charge for online content, readers will simply go elsewhere.”
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