Young people don’t pay for news subscriptions saying they do not add exclusivity and are too time-consuming if added to existing news habits using for instance open websites. Payment models are also seen as unattractive. Consumers who see interesting news on sites behind paywalls go looking for the same news on open sites. Young people are not news avoiders – but they avoid paying to read the news.
These are conclusions from a Norwegian study by Marianne Borchgrevink-Brækhus and Hallvard Moe, both University of Bergen, published by Taylor & Francis.
The survey shows young news consumers express a strong preference for “multi-perspectivism” in their news use.
“Subscriptions were rather experienced as supplementary and restrictive burdens to their already existing news repertoires.”
“This indicates a clear need for new subscription models but also increased awareness of recently introduced models that do allow users to access several newspapers through one joint subscription”, the authors write.
“Our informants were not opposed to the idea of paying for news but had critical views on the legitimacy of charging for certain types of news linked to the journalistic remit.”
“The informants’ complex and sometimes resource-intensive strategies to access subscription-based content also illustrate that far from being “avoiders”, non-subscribers can be both willing and interested in orienting themselves towards the public through news.”
The researchers say the non-subscribers were overall aware of the dominant news stories.
“Having access to subscription content did thus not appear as a prerequisite to a public orientation through news. In this sense, our findings seem reassuring for previous fears of widening knowledge gaps between subscribers and non-subscribers, at least in a Norwegian context where strong free alternatives exist.”
“Their widespread and shifting use of various news sources simultaneously indicates less loyalty to the various news providers. An overall observation based on our analysis is that these young non-subscribers expressed a strong preference for “multi-perspectivism” in their news use.”
“They included a myriad of both national and international sources, they were tech-savvy and knew how to maneuver around payment models in search of information, and were pragmatic but not naïve when searching for accessible information.”
“A key overarching preference was the freedom of not being tied to a subscription. As such, it seemed unthinkable to “commit” to one or two providers. Subscriptions were rather experienced as supplementary and restrictive burdens to their already existing news repertoires.”
“The informants’ preference for multi-perspectivism also underlines how news serves a distinct role in the everyday lives of these young adults, where they, to a lesser extent, seem to identify with the individual provider. Such preferences pose a challenge for providers in search of loyal paying customers.”
Norway is one of the most mature markets for subscription-based online news. According to Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report, 41% of Norwegians have access to for-pay news.