Print spending cut back amid free online news

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More than a quarter of people have cut back spending on magazines and newspapers in the economic downturn in favour of free online content, a study shows today.

But as more news outlets consider charging for their internet offering, the report shows there is little appetite for subscription services in the immediate future.

Only 11% of consumers said they paid for any online media and of those who did not currently pay, only a further 11% said they may begin any sort of subscription in the next 12 months.

The figures were compiled by YouGov in a survey commissioned by financial firm KPMG and show 28% reduced newspapers and magazine purchases in favour of free online sources since the recession began.

And the pattern is unlikely to reverse dramatically when things pick up financially. Only 3% of those who had cut back said they would return to their previous spending levels for such things.

Of those that do spend on online media, 21% paid for online TV, 19% for on-demand films and 17% on music. Just 7% paid for any online newspapers or magazine content.

KPMG's Media and Entertainment Barometer found those who had paid for any online content in the past month had spent far less than they would have done for traditional media. The typical spend for new media for the month would have been below £2, while traditional media spending would have been between £5 and £20.

David Elms, media partner at KPMG, said the study showed the impact of structural change on the media sector. "The challenge for the sector is that consumers are not transferring their spending to online media," he said.

"Monetising online content is the holy grail of the media sector. The challenge is changing the mindset of a consumer population that is used to accessing free online content.

"While our survey shows that few people currently pay for online media content, that perception is there to be challenged."

The study showed almost half of respondents (47%) had visited a social networking or blogging site in the past month, while 37% had viewed online news and 22% had downloaded music.

It also showed traditional methods were still the preferred choice for many consumers. Almost 88% of the 1,037 people surveyed had watched TV in the past month, 82% had listened to the radio and 81% had read a newspaper.