March 15, 2016

Insights From 2,021 U.S. Consumers: Purchase preferences for digital and print newspapers

SUMMARY: The newspaper industry is transforming into a more digitally-oriented business. This change is challenging, since consumers have come to expect news from the Internet for free. A recent study by MarketingSherpa showed that U.S. consumers are less inclined to purchase digital newspapers compared to print newspapers. How can marketers change the value perceptions of consumers if they are competing with free digital products or services?

Read on and watch the video as we discuss this question with Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS.
by Dr. Liva LaMontagne , Editorial Research Manager

From August 20–24, 2015 MarketingSherpa conducted an online survey with a nationally representative sample of 2,201 U.S. consumers.

The researchers asked about a broad range of products, including digital and print newspapers. The survey asked, "Please indicate how you would most prefer to purchase the following products and services." The answer options were:
  • "One-time purchase"

  • "Buy a subscription/plan with recurring payments"

  • "Both as a one-time purchase and subscription"

  • "I have no preference for how I buy this product/service"

  • "I would not purchase this product/service"

In comparison to entertainment content such as movies and music, where consumer preferences leaned toward one-time purchase, digital and print newspapers had a relatively even distribution of preferences toward one-time purchases and subscriptions.

However, we saw a striking difference between print and digital newspapers in regards to the people who said they wouldn’t buy this product. The percentage of people saying they wouldn’t buy this product for digital newspapers (59%) was double the percentage of people who felt that way about print newspapers (29%).

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

To add qualitative understanding to our quantitative data, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, sat down with Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute. McGlaughlin has 20 years of experience testing and optimizing responses to subscription offers in the newspaper industry among others.

"The real question isn’t — will people buy digital subscriptions? The real question is — how can we use the digital landscape, the ecosystem, all of its advantages, to deliver a better value proposition?" McGlaughlin said, adding that "the minute we answer that, we solve the real problem."

Watch video interview with Flint McGlaughlin:

Related Resources

Newspaper paywalls and digital subscriptions: Research with 900 U.S. news consumers reveals four key insights (research report from MECLABS Institute Executive series)

Anatomy of a Business Transformation: An executive look at how The Boston Globe drove $3 million in incremental revenue in just one year

Subscription Checkouts Optimized: How experimentation led to compounding gains at the revenue level (from the MarketingExperiments blog)

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