People Do Pay for Online Content

In fact, Pew study shows 65% of Internet users have paid for online content

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A large majority of Internet users--65 percent--have forked over real money for online content, says a new study. People most commonly pay for downloads of music, apps, and software, Pew Research Center's Jim Jansen explains. It's good news for struggling news organizations, some of whom are considering putting their stories behind paywalls despite the dire warnings of digital media gurus that that no one will ever pay for information online, ever.

Most people who buy intangible things online (as opposed to buying shoes at Zappos) spend just $10 a month, though, thanks to a small number of big spenders, the average is $47 per month.

  • Information Wants to Be Moderately Priced, Audrey Watters writes at Read Write Web. "For a long time--right or wrong--content on the Internet has been synonymous with 'free.' Free music. Free videos. Free access to your local newspaper. Free blogs. And so some have worried that people might be reluctant to actually spend money to buy digital content if they can already find it (or something similar) online without having to pay." Not anymore, so "the news seems to be good for those who want to charge for digital content, provided, so it seems, that it costs less than 10 bucks."
There are many ... forces at play here. Although it only ranked at 21%, mobile apps and the app economy is probably one of the bigger reasons people are getting more and more comfortable with the idea of virtual goods. Having access to something useful anywhere and everywhere (and this includes in the palm of your hand) is a big (and still relatively) new idea. The smaller the devices, the more portable they are and the more simple they are to use (re: ubiquitous), means the more value there is in paying for content.
  • Only 2 Percent Say They Pay for Porn? Faith Merino marvels at Vator News at some of these numbers:
This is the sector that defies other Internet trends.  The races are evenly represented, with both whites and nonwhites equally likely to purchase adult content, while Internet users aged 30-49 are the most likely to pay to download porn.  And the stunner--Web users aged 65 and older are more likely than those aged 18-29 to pay for adult content, which could possibly make this the only Internet space where seniors aged 65 and older outpace younger users.  Gross.
  • No One's Buying eBooks?  "I’m somewhat surprised by the low number of e-book buyers," Kevin C. Tofel writes at GigaOm. "Digital books for most platforms can be read on a wide array of devices: smartphones, computers, tablets and of course, dedicated e-reader devices. Even though it won’t share sales numbers, Amazon recently pointed out that its newest Kindle is the best selling product on Amazon. Between that news and the cross-platform support for e-book content, I would have expected more spending on e-books..."
  • Publishers Should Expect About 20 Percent to Pay, Greg Sterling predicts at Screenwerk. "As a practical matter multiple publishers will be introducing their digital subscription products (online, iPad) next year. They’ll all be competing for these few digital content dollars. As the NY Times introduces subscriptions, for example, a contrarian ad-supported approach such as what USAToday now seems to be doing could shrewdly win the site more users."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.