People won't pay for local news online, says report

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Almost half of mobile device owners use their device to get some sort of local news information - but only ten per cent of them pay for it.

According to the latest study from Pew, 42 percent of cellphone and tablet owners say they use their device to check the weather, 37 percent look up reviews for local businesses or restaurants and 30 percent check out general news.

These people are likely to be younger, educated, urban and affluent.

But very few said they'd be preapred to pay for local news on their device - more than half said they wouldn't consider paying for their local newspaper online, even if it was the only way of accessing it.

"Many news organizations are looking to mobile platforms, in particular mobile apps, to provide new ways to generate subscriber and advertising revenues in local markets," says Lee Rainie, director of The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. "The survey suggests there is a long way to go before that happens."

Part of the reason seems to be that people don't particularly value local newspapers in the first place. Only a quarter said that losing access to a local paper would have much of an impact on them, and 39 percent said it would make no difference at all.

But with 36 percent of adult Americans saying that they pay for local news somehow, the fact that - according to Pew - only one percent of adults are currently paying to get it online bodes ill for those publishers trying to create mobile-only news apps.

"Tablet penetration is growing so rapidly — as quickly as any device we have seen to date," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

"It will be fascinating to see whether that changes whether people will pay for content online - but for now it hasn’t happened."