New study reveals why people pay for news and what it means for future of journalism

May 02, 2017

Slightly more than half of all U.S. adults pay for news, with roughly half of those subscribing to a newspaper, according to a study conducted by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. With this study, the Media Insight Project has undertaken one of the largest efforts to date aimed at understanding who subscribes to news, what motivates them, and how news organizations can engage more deeply to convert consumers to subscribers. This research is critical because the future of journalism will increasingly depend on consumers paying for the news directly, as content distributors like Facebook and Google take up a greater share of digital advertising dollars.

"People are drawn to subscribe to news for three reasons above all the others: the publication excels at coverage of key topics, friends and family subscribe to the publication, and, to a lesser degree, in response to discount promotions on subscription prices," said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. "The findings from our study carry a number of important implications about how publishers should proceed--including that they must pursue a dual strategy of both print and digital for the foreseeable future, and that even as newsrooms contract they must improve coverage in key areas of specialization."

Key findings of the study include:

The report also answers several important questions:

"While print dominates among newspaper subscribers today--fully 75 percent of respondents say they primarily read the paper in print -- the future of newspapers depends on winning over more young digital readers while maintaining ties to the existing print readers," said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center. "It is critical to develop dual strategies aimed both at keeping current print readers and attracting new digital users."

These key overall findings have a number of implications for publishers and the future of journalism.
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About the Survey

NORC conducted the study from February 16 through March 20, 2017, with funding from the American Press Institute (API). Staff from API, NORC at the University of Chicago, and The Associated Press collaborated on all aspects of the study. Data were collected using the AmeriSpeak Panel, which is NORC's probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. Panel members were randomly drawn from the AmeriSpeak Panel, and 2,199 completed the survey. The overall margin of sampling error is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups.

A full description of the study methodology for the survey and the qualitative group interviews can be found at the end of the report.

The proper description of the survey's authorship is as follows: This study was conducted jointly by the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About the Media Insight Project

The Media Insight Project is a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with the objective of conducting high-quality, innovative research meant to inform the news industry and the public about various important issues facing journalism and the news business. The Media Insight Project brings together the expertise of both organizations and their respective partners, and involves collaborations among key staff at the American Press Institute, NORC at the University of Chicago, and The Associated Press. http://www.mediainsight.org/

About the American Press Institute

Founded in 1946, the American Press Institute conducts research, training, convenes thought leaders, and creates tools to help chart a path ahead for journalism in the 21st century. The American Press Institute is an educational non-advocacy 501(c)3 nonprofit organization affiliated with the Newspaper Association of America. It aims to help the news media, especially local publishers and newspaper media, advance in the digital age. http://www.pressinstitute.org

About The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research taps into the power of social science research and the highest-quality journalism to bring key information to people across the nation and throughout the world. http://www.apnorc.org

The Associated Press (AP) is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP. http://www.ap.org

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective and non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge. http://www.norc.org

The two organizations have established The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct, analyze, and distribute social science research in the public interest on newsworthy topics, and to use the power of journalism to tell the stories that research reveals.

Contacts: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at young-eric@norc.org or (703) 217-6814 (cell); Ray Boyer for NORC at boyer-ray@norc.org or (312) 330-6433; Laurie Beth Harris for API at lauriebeth.harris@pressinstitute.org or (571) 366-1044; Tom Rosenstiel for API at tom.rosenstiel@pressinstitute.org or (571) 366-1044; or Lauren Easton for AP at leaston@ap.org.

NORC at the University of Chicago

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