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OPLIN 4Cast #211: Paying for online content

Posted in 4cast

dollar sign with download symbolJust at the end of the year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report indicating that “65% of Internet users have paid for online content.” In fact, you probably saw some variation of that phrase repeated several times in the media (as evidenced by the titles of the articles listed below). It’s worth going beyond the headlines and paying a little closer attention to the details of this report because it could indicate future trends that affect the borrowing practices of library users. For example, how many people are willing to pay for movies and e-books delivered directly to them over the Internet, rather than borrowing them from a library? What differences are there between age groups and income brackets? What factors determine what types of online content people are likely to buy? And what does all this tell us about the best future use of library funds for purchasing content?

  • Parsing Pew: What the latest online content buying numbers really say (paidContent/Staci D. Kramer)  “…Pew has a very broad definition of content ranging from music, software and gaming ‘cheats’ to newspapers, magazines, e-books, adult content and dating services. The distinctions were often blurred between kinds of content and containers. For instance, one category was ‘a digital newspaper, magazine, journal article, or special report’ but other options included apps and premium or members-only content. That makes it difficult to hone in on what people are willing to pay for—the actual content or the way content is delivered.”
  • 65 percent of Internet users have bought content online (Ars Technica/Casey Johnston)  “Of the people who use the Internet but don’t buy content, those ages 30-49 were the least likely to abstain from digital purchases—29 percent haven’t bought anything, compared to 33 percent of 18-29 year olds and 39 percent of 50-64 year olds. This indicates the 30-49 age bracket makes a good target for companies that are looking to sell online content, as it has the largest overlap between technological literacy and financial security.”
  • Pew shows 65% of people pay for digital content (TechCrunch/Erick Schonfeld)  “What about digital newspapers or magazines behind paywalls or for sale for tablets like the iPad? A respectable 18 percent of respondents say they have paid for news or other reports online. That even beats out the 16 percent who have paid for movies or TV shows. Media companies will love that stat. And ebooks? Only 10 percent have bothered to pay for those.”
  • 65% of Web users buy digital content: More music, fewer e-books (GigaOM/Kevin C. Tofel)  “Digital books for most platforms can be read on a wide array of devices: smartphones, computers, tablets and of course, dedicated e-reader devices. Even though it won’t share sales numbers, Amazon recently pointed out that its newest Kindle is the best selling product on Amazon. Between that news and the cross-platform support for e-book content, I would have expected more spending on e-books from the Pew Internet survey.”

Money fact
The amount of money spent for online content by the respondents to the Pew survey averaged $47 per month; however, Pew noted that a few high-end users skewed this average, and the typical buyer of online content only spent about $10 per month.