Research Finds New Trends in News Consumption

angela_leeA new study from the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas investigates the willingness of consumer’s to pay for news.

In research published in Electronic News, Dr. Angela Lee — along with Dr. Hsiang Iris Chyi from UT Austin and Dr. Avery Holton from the University of Utah — discovered that paying for news online could be regarded as socially undesirable.

“We already know that people are less willing to pay for news online than in print,” Lee said. “This study goes a step further and attempts to explore the psychological underpinning of news consumers’ paying intent across different platforms.”

767 U.S. Internet users were asked how willing they were to pay for news in three forms: print, web and app. They were also asked to gauge their perception of others’ willingness to pay.

The study found:

  • 8 percent of respondents believed others would be more likely to pay for print news than they themselves would be.
  • 44 percent of respondents believed others would be more likely to pay for web news than they themselves would be.
  • 5 percent of respondents believed others would be more likely to pay for app news than they themselves would be.
  • The perceived difference in how much more likely others would pay for news than oneself widens from print to web and to app editions

Lee said the “third-person perception,” a theory that states people exposed to mass media messages perceive a greater persuasive effect on others than on themselves, helps explain why people think others are more likely to pay for the news.

“It’s human nature that most of us like to think that we are not just ‘smart purchasers,’ but that we are smarter than others,” she said. “The fact that many respondents think others are more likely to pay for news across different platforms than themselves suggest that paying for news is not perceived as a smart buy by those people, and this is especially true when it comes to news delivered in digital formats. Perhaps the question that news organizations should begin asking is, ‘How can we produce content that is deemed valuable to the audience?’”