When newspapers first went online in the 1990s they tried to get readers to pay for content. Almost all the early attempts were dismal failures, with only specialist titles managing to extract a fee from readers.

In 2009 the industry revisited the idea, with Rupert Murdoch leading the way. He said News Corporation would introduce charges at all its online properties. To date this hasn’t happened. Other publishers said they’d follow – but most are, wisely, letting Murdoch walk first through the paywall minefield.

The Pew Research Centre’s recent survey of US consumer attitudes underlines the risks of charging for online news. Its State of the News Media 2010 report found:

  • About 71% of internet users, or 53% of all American adults, get news online
  • Only 35% have a favourite site.
  • Only 7% of all people who get news online having a favourite online news source they say they would pay for

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