Cost of living crisis impacting online news subscriptions, latest Reuters Institute research finds

News audiences’ desire to pay for online news is being severely affected by the rising cost of living, according to new research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

At least a third of news subscribers have cancelled or renegotiated the price of their subscriptions in the past year, data from the institute’s latest report – ‘Paying for news: Price-conscious consumers look for value amid cost-of-living crisis’ – shows.

And while news consumers may initially be attracted into subscribing by the appeal of introductory price offers, they often fail to resubscribe when their renewal comes up.

This research shows how price-conscious many consumers have become amid the squeeze on household spending and how new approaches will be needed to attract reluctant subscribers.

“Lower price products, all-access subscriptions, differential pricing, and digital wallets are all in the mix as the industry tries to better match price to the perceived value of different news consumers.”

Co-author Nic Newman, RISJ Senior Research Associate

The report was published at the end of September and draws on survey data from 20 countries combined with qualitative research from the UK, US and Germany which analyses behaviours and motivations in greater detail.

Other key findings include:

  • Up to 60% of long-term subscribers are men and 79% have medium to high-income households.
  • Younger subscribers tend to pay less and are more likely to make donations than older groups.
  • Those paying for news do so for a variety of reasons – from the desire for high-quality, unique content to identification with a brand and wanting to support quality journalism.
    • In the US in particular - where concerns over misinformation, bias and clickbait are rife - access to high-quality content is the main determining factor for subscribers.
  • Around 50% of non-subscribers say nothing would persuade them to pay for online news.

The report was written by Nic Newman and Dr Craig T Robertson, RISJ Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is dedicated to exploring the future of journalism worldwide.