By Harry McCracken | Monday, November 16, 2009 at 8:54 am
The New York Times is reporting on a new survey that says that 48 percent of Americans would be willing to pay something for online news. The Times’ story begins with a tsk-tsking tone: We Yanks are less likely to say we’d pony up than people in other western countries. But a lover of ambitious news reporting–and, I hasten to add, someone with a selfish desire to see the media business continue to provide paying work–I found the figure sort of encouraging. In a world in which everybody except Wall Street Journal readers get to be happy online freeloaders, I would have guessed that considerably less than half of respondents would have had their head around the concept of paying for news.
The Times says that the survey’s respondents would pay $3 a month for online news, which means they’re tied for Australians for that place. (Italians, by contrast, would for over $7 a month.) It’s not clear just what Americans would expect for their three bucks, or whether we’re talking about a scenario in which there’s still plentiful news available for free, or one in which freebies suddenly go away and your choice is between paying or getting no online news at all.
Anyhow, let’s try a mini-replication of the survey right here. For the sake of the following question, assume that every general-interest news site in the nation suddenly builds a pay wall, and that what you’d be paying for is some sort of pass that would give you access to multiple news sources for one monthly fee.