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Pay Models for Online News in the US and Europe: 2019 Update

DOI: 10.60625/risj-jyn8-xe73

The analysis presented here is based on examining the online offerings of more than 200 leading news organisations across the seven markets. (See detailed methodology and sample at the end of this factsheet.) As in 2017, we collected data from four broad categories of outlets: daily newspapers (up-market, tabloid/midmarket, business, and regional), weekly newspapers and news magazines, TV news (commercial and public service media), and digital-born news outlets. We sorted pay models into three categories: hard paywalls, where no content is accessible for free at all; ‘freemium’ models made up of a mix of free and premium content; and metered paywalls, whichallow access to a limited number of free articles each month.

Based on an examination of 212 of the most important news organisations in these seven countries, we find that:

  • 69% of the newspapers in our sample operate some kind of a pay model today, a small increase from 64.5% in 2017. Hard paywalls are extremely rare, with the landscape evenly divided between freemium models and metered paywalls (33% each).
  • More than half of weekly newspapers and news magazines (57%) operate a pay model, down 5 percentage points from 2017. Freemium models are the most widely used, followed by metered paywalls and hard paywalls.
  • Just as in 2017, all broadcasters continue to offer free access to their digital news in 2019. This includes private sector broadcasters as well as public service media like the BBC in the UK or Yle in Finland.
  • Almost all digital-born news outlets (94%) across the seven countries offer free access to their news. Mediapart in France and the Independent in the UK are the only digital-born/digital-only organisations in our sample that operate a paywall, up one from 2017.
  • Looking only at those news organisations that operate a pay model, the average price for the cheapest available monthly subscription (without discounts) in 2019 is €14.06 (£12.19), roughly similar to 2017.. Prices range from as little as €2 (£1.74) to €41.50 (£36) a month. For comparison, the average price for a Netflix subscription across countries is €7.77 (£6.73).

An earlier version of this factsheet had coded Newsweek Polska as free access instead of freemium. The fact sheet was updated on 23 May 2019.

Published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

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