Headlines and snippets popped up in blogland yesterday that seemed to say just more than half of American newspaper publishers are gunning to implement paid content strategies on the Web.
- Alan Mutter: Only 51% of pubs think pay walls will fly
- Lost Remote: 51% of the newspaper publishers in the United States believe they can charge successfully for access to their interactive content (in defense of Cory Bergman, he's quoting from Mutter's post.)
- PaidContent: Glass Half Full? 51 Percent of Newspaper Publishers Believe Charging for Content Can Succeed
The bloggage emerged from meetings happening at the American Press Institute yesterday and today, focused on revenue models for and around content. In those meetings, Itz Publishing and Belden Interactive presented results of their recent industry survey. It included several questions about subscription, micropayment and day-pass models to charge consumers for access to news content. I'm attending, so I heard the whole presentation.
The coverage pushes down, or ignores entirely, the fact that the survey had 118 respondents, unweighted, not a valid representative sample of all American newspapers. Publishers were not always the people responding, and in some cases, representatives of newspaper groups responded in aggregate on behalf of multiple papers.
Further, the question that yielded the 51 percent metric actually had only 68 respondents. It wasn't a question about whether paid content would work. It asked what papers' time frames were for attempting to implement any form of paid content online. 51 percent of respondents had a timetable at all within the next two years. The rest were undecided.
In my view, the better question to focus on would be whether publishers are considering paid content programs at all. All 118 survey respondents answered that one; 58 percent said yes.
In no way, however, should any of the survey results be reported to reflect the whole industry, especially on such a volatile issue as paid access to news. I think even the Itz/Belden folks would agree.