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Survey Finds Paywalls Still A Turnoff For Many Americans.

Podcasters’ debate over whether to put content behind a paywall continues, as many see it as a viable revenue alternative to advertising. Recent reports suggest the New York Times is among those considering charging for access to their podcasts. A recent survey from All About Cookies gauging consumer appetite to pay offers some insights into how consumers are thinking about paywalls in 2024.

The survey finds three in ten (29%) have purchased a subscription to access exclusive content. The survey focused on websites – not podcasts – and it found that $1.01 was the average amount people would hypothetically be willing to pay in a one-time fee to view a blocked article. It shows twice as many people – 60% – report avoiding websites that they know have paywalls on them.

"The barriers to entry seem higher for podcasts,” says Chris Lewis, Director of Research at All About Cookies. “I’d imagine people would pay way more because it’s one, longer content so you’re getting more and, two, you tend to build more 'personal' relationships with podcasts. The translation to 'you’re taking money out of their pocket' is way more tangible. I bet people would feel way worse."

The survey shows that people are not only avoiding content that is paywalled, but that many are also actively taking steps to get around paywalled content, such as browsing in incognito mode (43%), searching for a headline in Google looking for a free version of the same story (41%), creating a new account to access a free trial (35%), and using a browser extension that’s expressly designed to get around paywalls (33%).

All About Cookies’ survey of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or older was conducted in April and May 2024.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the New York Times is considering keeping just a handful of current episodes of The Daily open to all listeners. The Times is also said to be considering following in the footsteps of other subscription based media companies and give other shows – like Serial – an exclusive window for Times customers. The shows would reportedly continue to feature advertising. 

Beyond just taking archive shows behind the paywall, the Journal says the aim is to eventually make podcasts a subscription service. Plans are still evolving and might change, the report said.

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