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Poll: 5 in 6 Americans Say Paywalls Prevent News Consumption

October 18, 2021 11:06 am Scott Stedman

More than 80% of Americans say that online news paywalls prevent them from reading articles, according to a new Forensic News poll conducted with SurveyMonkey.

Those surveyed also said that, on average, every other news article that they attempt to read is hidden behind a paywall.

The responses in the poll, conducted online with a sample size of 507 (4% margin of error), prove that the Forensic News mission of providing news without a hard paywall is not only a strong ethical position but likely a smart business decision as well.

Previous studies have found that approximately 5% of a digital media outlet’s newsreaders will pay for a subscription and the new Forensic News poll found that nearly every American (92%) is spending less than $25 dollars a month on paywalls/subscriptions.

The poll, however, also asked a hypothetical question to determine the likelihood of readers donating $1 after reading an online news article that they enjoyed, as an alternative to a paywall.

While most respondents were not enamored with the idea, more than 1 in 4 said that they would be “likely” or “very likely” to donate the $1. If this rate of likely or very likely donors (28%) is to be compared to the rate of digital subscribers (5%), it is clear that paywalls are not the only viable business model.

Forensic News poll showing 28% likely or very likely to donate $1.

N=507, Margin of Error = 4%

In an era of extreme distrust, reputable media outlets are compounding the issue by putting important news stories behind paywalls.

As more and more organizations adopt (subscribe to the Wall Street Journal to get through their paywall to read the story about incoming paywalls at Politico) this business model, what’s left for the 83% of Americans who are sometimes blocked by a paywall is the independent non-paywall publications, which are purposefully marginalized by the major outlets.

The Forensic News/SurveyMonkey poll puts data behind the notion that paywalls are harming a society that is largely being blocked from reading reputable news. With little appetite for digital subscriptions, Americans deserve more options to fund journalism. Mainstream media organizations should strongly consider a donation-driven model.

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