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Paid content in media - statistics & facts

The increasing proliferation of online news outlets has led to massive changes within the media industry. Paid circulation of daily print newspapers has halved since 1985, as digitization has begun to drastically change the way that media companies do business. Evolving consumer demands mean that even the most well-established publications are being pushed to adopt a web-based strategy or be forced out of the market.

The past few years have seen huge increases in digital publishing revenue across all platforms and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Digital newspaper circulation and advertising revenue also continue to grow, and an increasing percentage of people are willing to pay for online news content. In fact, around 21 percent of adults in the United States paid for some sort of online news content in 2021.

Audiences are also becoming increasingly likely to consume content via mobile web applications. The percentage of people using their smartphone to read online news rose from 28 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2021, making smartphones the most popular devices for reading online news. The market is also beginning to experience changes in the way content is paid for. Retirees are much more likely to renew their subscriptions manually compared to Millennials, who prefer to have their subscription renewed automatically via credit card.

In the past, media companies were rushing to make their content available online, they were also producing new forms of content in order to compete in the digital space and attract new audiences. Around 22 percent of adults in the United States paid for online digital audio content in 2017, while 33 percent paid for online digital video content. Another way that companies are monetizing online content is through digital subscription services which give customers unlimited access to content and media through the company’s website.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have quickly adapted to the trend of web-based subscriptions, with each accumulating over one million digital-only subscribers as of 2018. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of The New York Times’ subscribers are digital-only customers along with the Wall Street Journal’s 50 percent. With most subscription fees ranging from one to five U.S. dollars per week, media companies have been able to generate new, web-based revenue streams at a price that ensures that their content remains accessible for most consumers.

In order to understand the market for paid digital media content it is important to first understand the ways in which people consume this content. While older generations remain satisfied with print versions of newspapers and magazines, younger generations are driving the success of online content. Around 30 percent of U.S. based adults from ages 26 to 35 pay for online editorial content, compared to only 7 percent among people over the age of 55.

Paid content remains an important part of the way that consumers access media and news around the world. The industry has certainly changed in recent years, but this change has provided consumers with new ways of enjoying their content and media companies with new advertising opportunities and possibilities for revenue generation.


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