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Why Do Citizens Pay for Online Political News and Public Affairs? Socio-psychological Antecedents of Local News Paying Behaviour


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Local news organizations play a crucial role in informing rural or suburban communities about current events and politics. With the growing concentration of populations in large cities, many citizens may feel they are missing out on essential information about their local communities, thus affecting their knowledge about local issues and public policies. This study examines how readers' perceptions of the financial state of local news organizations, journalists' engagement with local communities and users' local content creation affect readers' paying behaviour for local news. Drawing on data from the Pew Research Center, results indicate that readers' perceptions of the financial state of local news organizations predict their paying behaviour. Second, findings show that journalists' engagement with their local communities and users' content creation are crucial factors for increasing the probability of paying for local news. Finally, readers' age is explored as a moderator between news organizations financial state and readers' paying behaviour. This study adds to the growing literature on the socio-psychological antecedents involved in paying behaviour for local news organizations.
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Journalism Studies
ISSN: 1461-670X (Print) 1469-9699 (Online) Journal homepage:
Why Do Citizens Pay for Online Political News and
Public Affairs? Socio-psychological Antecedents of
Local News Paying Behaviour
Manuel Goyanes
To cite this article: Manuel Goyanes (2019): Why Do Citizens Pay for Online Political News and
Public Affairs? Socio-psychological Antecedents of Local News Paying Behaviour, Journalism
Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2019.1694429
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Published online: 26 Nov 2019.
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Why Do Citizens Pay for Online Political News and Public
Aairs? Socio-psychological Antecedents of Local News
Paying Behaviour
Manuel Goyanes
Department of Communication Sciences, Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain;
Democracy Research Unit,
Political Science, University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain
Local news organizations play a crucial role in informing rural or
suburban communities about current events and politics. With the
growing concentration of populations in large cities, many citizens
may feel they are missing out on essential information about their
local communities, thus aecting their knowledge about local
issues and public policies. This study examines how readers
perceptions of the nancial state of local news organizations,
journalistsengagement with local communities and userslocal
content creation aect readerspaying behaviour for local news.
Drawing on data from the Pew Research Center, results indicate
that readersperceptions of the nancial state of local news
organizations predict their paying behaviour. Second, ndings
show that journalistsengagement with their local communities
and userscontent creation are crucial factors for increasing the
probability of paying for local news. Finally, readersage is
explored as a moderator between news organizations nancial
state and readerspaying behaviour. This study adds to the
growing literature on the socio-psychological antecedents
involved in paying behaviour for local news organizations.
Local news; local news
organizations; paying
behaviour; nancial state;
content creation;
During the last decade, many national and local news organizations have had to close,
implement downsizing operations or develop measures aimed at reducing costs, mostly
through salary reductions (Edkale et al. 2015; Sherwood and ODonnell 2018). The
nancial crisis (Siles and Boczkowski 2012), the changing readersconsumption patterns
(Costera-Meijer and Groot-Kormelink 2015), and the free to fee transition (Kammer et al.
2015), have challenged the traditional structures and business models of most national
and local media companies. In this context, print readership and advertising incomes
have increasingly declined (Cawley 2019), meanwhile, digital platforms have experienced
a huge growth. Despite the digital take oof the digital business, online advertising and
subscription revenues could not compensate print losses (Myllylahti 2017), pushing many
news organizations to implement paid content strategies based on business models that
ask readers to pay (Goyanes 2014).
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Manuel Goyanes
Local news organizations have been aected by all these structural challenges, but their
position in the market and value propositions have allowed them a better digital transition
(Lewis, Kaufhold and Lasorsa 2009). Previous scholarship on local news organizations has
highlighted the privileged position of local outlets in asking readers to pay due to their
specialized nature and traditional relationship with audiences (Napoli et al. 2017). Accord-
ing to Goyanes et al. (2018), journalistic values such as the exclusiveness and specialization
of news contents are key explanatory factors to understand readerspaying behaviour. In a
context of globalized information and media de-attachment (Borja et al. 1999), local news
organizations play a crucial role in informing communities about local/national public
aairs and politics. However, despite their key function in local integration (Franklin and
Richardson 2002) and traditional role as public service in rural communities or suburbs
(Paulussen and Dheer 2013), little research has explored citizensperceptions about
their social relevance in relation to their paying behaviour. This study addresses this
gap by exploring how the nancial state of local news organizations, journalistsengage-
ment with local communities and citizensnews production practices predict readers
paying behaviour.
Specically, this article examines how community readers respond to the growing
closure of local news organizations in the United States (UNC 2018). First, this paper con-
siders whether having negative perceptions on the nancial state of local news organiz-
ations might lead to an increased probability to pay for local news. Second, the study
test whether readersperceptions on journalistsengagement with local communities
and readerscontent creation aect their paying behaviour. Drawing on survey data
from the Pew Research, these relationships were tested in a logistic regression model
that incorporates several control variables, including demographic information, social
media use for news, easiness of local news consumption and interest in news. Findings
indicate that readers that reported higher concerns regarding the nancial state of local
news organizations are more prone to pay for local news. In addition, results show a posi-
tive relationship between journalistsengagement with their local communities and
readerspaying behaviour. Findings also indicate that citizens who create local news
content are more likely to pay for local news services. Finally, group dierences (moder-
ation eects) in the perception levels of the nancial state of local news organizations
between young and old news readers were tested.
Hypotheses Development
ReadersFinancial Perception on Local Outlets and Paying Behaviour
Starting from a dual system, where newspapers create content to serve the public, and
then sell their mass audience reach in exchange for advertising revenue (Campos 2010),
last decades economic recession disturbed the nancial structure of most news outlets
(Evens and Van Damme 2016), forcing many of them to explore new digital revenue
models (Sjøvaag 2016). Under this digital transition, many news organizations
implemented paid content strategies based on business models that ask audiences to
pay (Goyanes 2015), growingly relying on readerspayments (i.e., subscriptions) as a
crucial source of income. The general inability to monetize digital contents, along with
readerschanging consumption patterns, led many media scholars to devote their
eorts to examine and explore the potential factors that increase the likelihood of paying
for news (Kammer et al. 2015). Despite that early market research suggested that US
readers were hardly paying for online news, as they perceived there were many other
free available options online, recent market and scholarly research show that these pro-
phecies were not correctly adjusted. In fact, according to the Reuters Institute for the
Study of Journalism, in 2019, 16% of US readers have paid for online news, rising by 7%
since 2013. In this context of digital transition, how news organizations transform and
adapt their digital strategies to convince readers to pay seems essential.
A rich display of media-use perspectives has been examined in order to assess the
impact of digital news consumption (Ruggiero 2000; Cooper and Tang 2009; McQuail
2010; Taneja et al. 2012; Sullivan 2013) and the willingness to pay for online news
(Goyanes 2014). Such perspectives have included motivational (Wadbring and Bergström
2015), situational (Wonneberg, Schoenbach, and van Meurs 2012), and demographic ante-
cedents (Wadbring and Bergström 2015), employing both correlational (Fletcher and
Nielsen 2017; Chen and Thorson 2019) and experimental designs (Goyanes, Artero, and
Zapata 2018). Previous studies on the socio-demographic antecedents of readers
paying intent found that younger adults, with higher incomes, who have purchased
other digital products, and who already paid for print news (Goyanes 2015; Fletcher
and Nielsen 2017), are more prone to pay for digital contents. Chyi, Lee, and Holton
(2016), also found a third-person eect, suggesting that people consistently perceive
others as more likely to pay for news across three news platforms (print, the web, and
app), shedding light also on the psychology behind online news consumption and
paying behaviour. Likewise, Gundlach and Hofmann (2017), employing a conjoint analysis,
found that the majority of news readers from their sample (60%) were not willing to pay
(WTP) for tablet news apps, while 40% exhibited moderate WTP.
Beyond socio-demographic and media antecedents, news values characteristics, such
as the exclusiveness and authorship of news contents (Goyanes, Artero, and Zapata
2018), were shown to be fundamental drivers of readerspecuniary evaluations. Recent
research on paywalls has also problematized the main strategies of news organizations
to monetize digital contents. For instance, Sjøvaag (2016), analysing three Norwegian
online newspapers, showed that specialized content such as local information is usually
paywalled, while syndicated content and immediacy news tend to remain open. Relatedly,
Myllylahti (2017), identied hard news and opinion pieces as the content mostly located
inside newspaperspaywalls in leading Australian newspapers. Recent research also
show that perceived quality and habit strength are crucial predictors of readerspaying
intent (Chen and Thorson 2019), emphasizing the critical role of news consumption rou-
tinization and news quality in shaping readers paying behaviour. Finally, Olsen and
Solvoll (2018), studying local newspapers value proposition and readersresponse to
these business strategies, found that younger users, with lower income and news interest
are those who less value local news organizationsvalue propositions and thus, when they
hit a paywall, they most likely ignore it and move on.
As shown, extant research have focused in exploring the individual-level factors (Chyi,
Lee, and Holton 2016; Goyanes 2015; Kammer et al. 2015;Fletcher and Nielsen 2017) and
news value characteristics (Goyanes, Artero, and Zapata 2018; Chen and Thorson 2019)
that may explain the increasing likelihood of engaging in paying behaviours. In addition,
these studies were usually conducted taking as reference national news organizations,
neglecting as a consequence both the psychological factors behind readerspaying intent
and the social relevance of local news organizations in shaping news value assessments.
This study argues that the psychology of paying behaviour and the specicities of local
news organizations are crucial factors to explore readerspaying behaviour as they may
play a signicant role in expressing readersperceptions and attitudes towards the
value of news. First, local news organizations have a decisive role in maintaining a
healthy democracy in neighbourhoods and communities (Williams et al. 2014), informing
audiences about relevant local/national public aairs and politics. Local news organiz-
ations are strategic to inform local communities, having a direct impact on the private
and public lives of most citizens by providing rich insights on public policies (Mersey
2009; Paulussen and Dheer 2013), fostering integration and enriching public discourses.
Second, beyond the traditional socio-demographic, news value characteristics and
readersconsumption antecedents across multiple platforms, the way news audiences
perceive the nancial state of local news organizations may be a determinant factor to
explain their attitudes towards the value of local news organizations in society. Local
newspapers have a decisive role in maintaining a healthy democracy (Paulussen and
Dheer 2013), as these media outlets are usually the only source of local information for
isolated communities. These democratic functions were pointed by Barnett (2009)as
being: informing, representing, campaigning and interrogating, meaning that local news-
papers serve the purpose to maintain the citizens updated on meaningful events, become
their spokesperson towards local elites, foster public services and public interest goals, as
well as holding authorities accountable for their actions (Barnett 2009). Therefore, in order
to inform local communities, stimulate civil participation and knowledge about public
aairs and politics, it is crucial to maintain local newspapers in both stable social and
nancial conditions that enable these tasks to be performed, a matter which has unra-
velled deep professional and academic discussions in the search for a suitable business
model in recent years.
A very common strategy to monetize digital contents is to raise paywalls over exclusive
news contents (Pickard and Williams 2014). This would benet local newspapers particu-
larly since they are likely to have more specialized, geographically focused contents based
on the needs and wants of their local audiences (Goyanes 2015). The content specializ-
ation of local media outlets based on rich information about municipal or regional
issues have allowed them a better digital transition (Lewis and Lasorsa 2009). In fact,
local newspapers almost universally enjoy a much greater circulation within their particu-
lar distribution areas than most of the national alternatives (Franklin and Richardson 2002),
generally establishing the local agendas of their readership. Local newspapers are crucial
for informing citizens, as geography remains a fundamental driver of news consumption
and interest (Barneet and Townend 2014). Their basic function in democratic society lies
in the service that it gives to its own region, a service which cannot be oered by news-
papers published elsewhere(Ross 1998, 231). Local news outlets usually serve a dened
geographic community (Lewis and Lasorsa 2009), often in a small city or rural area, hence
their importance in the creation of a sense of community and the production of news con-
tents pertaining to the town council based on coverage of every aspect of local reality
(Bew 2006).
As local news organizations now face growing nancial constraints, due to the general
inability to monetize digital contents and the rise of social media as a source for news (Gil
de Zúñiga, Jung, and Valenzuela 2012), many readersmay feel that they need to contrib-
ute to their survival by paying for such services. In fact, the crisis of local journalism has had
its consequences in the disappearance of multiple local outlets and the de-professionali-
zation of some (Barnett and Townend 2015). As a 2018 report from the University of North
Caroline states, about 20% of US local newspapers have closed since 2004, which has left
some inner-city neighbourhoods, suburbs and rural areas without the outlets that served
both as social energizers and promoters of a collective identity (UNC 2018). If local news
organizations are being closed, many regions and communities may not be fully informed,
as local news organizations are usually the most relevant news sources on regional pro-
blems, policies and issues (Bew 2006; Napoli et al. 2017). As a result, many citizens may
feel prone to contribute to their nancial stabilization by paying for local news services
or by making donations.
Psychological theories about public paying intent in relation to causes or situations in
which a will to ght is perceived have explored the main drivers that trigger citizens to
help in a moment of need (Basil, Ridgway, and Basil 2008). Two main elements arise
from these studies, one is empathy, which acts as the emotional link responsible for
individuals feeling obliged or inclined to help a cause (Verhaert and Van den Poel
2011), and the other is ecacy, which is the publics perception of their ability to
help by contributing with their own means (Basil, Ridgway, and Basil 2008). Empathy
has been shown to increase in a context where citizens are confronted with others in
need (Verhaert and Van den Poel 2011), especially when the others in needare
close by. For a local journal in a dicult situation, the relation between empathy,
ecacy and proximity, alongside paying intent, are four socio-psychological elements
that shape readersperceptions and attitudes about online news organizations and
their value in society. As local newspapers are perceived as crucial agents in the demo-
cratic ecosystem of their community (Bew 2006; Barnett and Townend 2015), it can be
assumed that readersperceptions on their nancial state might aect their paying
behaviour in order to avoid a potential bankruptcy and thus, losing their fundamental
source of information. Specically, it can be expected that a downwards nancial situ-
ation of local news outlets will be associated with readerspaying or donation intent. In
a more formal hypothesis:
(H1) Readers who perceive that the nancial situation of local outlets is delicate are more likely
to pay, subscribe, donate or become members of a local news service. In other words, the
lower the readersperceptions about the nancial state of local news media, the higher the
chances of engaging on an economic transaction.
In addition, this study aims to explore whether the eects of the interaction between
readersperceptions on the nancial state of local journalism and age, predict readers
paying behaviour. Specically, the statistical model is designed to test whether readers
perceptions on the nancial state of local journalism and readersage, reduce or increase
the probability of paying for news. It is possible that age dierences might dierently inter-
act with perceptions on the state of local news outlets and thus increasing or decreasing
individualsprobability to pay for local news services. Since the key objective of this study
is to test the relationship between readersperceptions on the nancial state of local jour-
nalism and age, while also exploring the potential group dierences in this relationship,
the following research question is proposed:
(RQ1) What is the nature of the moderation that stems from the introduction of age in the
relationship between readersperception on the nancial state of local news organizations
and readerspaying behaviour?
JournalistsEngagement and CitizensContent Creation
The fee to free transition has not been the only crisis faced by media outlets in the last years.
More recently, a condence crisis, fostered by a strong anti-press rhetoric during the 2016
American elections led to an all-time low in the American publicsnewsevaluation(Gilde
Zúñiga, Diehl, and Ardèvol-Abreu 2018), which has had devastating consequences on a
global scale, with only half of the people living in the European Union saying they trust
the written press (McCarthy 2014; European Broadcasting Union 2017). Before this, con-
dence issues regarding news outlets were mostly linked to a decit in news consumption
and a turn towards entertainment content (Tsfati and Capella 2003), thus provoking a
growing detachment from public life (Gil de Zúñiga, Diehl, and Ardèvol-Abreu 2018). This
concern is even deeper among local news organizations, as the integration of their
readers in public life is key for both their professional and nancial performance.
However, contrary to the general declining perspectives on the press, hyperlocal media
are being regarded as innovative, viable and useful (Harte, Turner, and Williams 2016), fos-
tering public participation in the creation of news and harnessing a strong local angle that
is regarded of high civil value (Williams, Harte, and Turner 2015). Extant research has
shown a positive circular relation between news consumption and civic engagement
(Norris 2000), which adds on to the previous idea of the public hosting more positive
views on outlets that allow for more participatory news creation. Dierent communication
models have stated the relation between interpersonal local communication and social
capital formation (Shah, Kwak, and Holbert 2001; Beaudoin and Thorson 2006; Nah and
Yamamoto 2018), which demonstrate the importance of the prominence of local journal-
ists with regards to their social connections and local civic aairs engagement.
The social capital perspective, alongside Ball-Rokeach, Kim, and Mateis communication
infrastructure theory explain the capacity of organizational membership and neighbour-
hood belonging to aect local media use (Ball-Rokeach, Kim, and Matei 2001), enabling
the public to engage in eective problem assessment routines and contributing in more
citizen-driven journalism activities (Nah and Yamamoto 2018). In this sense, the connection
between community and local media works benecially in both directions. On the one
hand, local media assists its public in learning about local news and events, and in exchange,
the public feels prone to contribute to journalistic activities as it regards the media to be
closely attached to its neighbours (Nah and Yamamoto 2018). Citizen journalism and
local issues are linked by denition. It is therefore natural that local news has a need for a
citizen perspective, increasing, as a result, civic engagement and hence trust in news.
On the other hand, from the publics perspective, journalistsown condition as citizens
is very often overlooked (Deuze, Bruns, and Neuberger 2007). Therefore, it is journalists
duty, through their integration in local aairs and communitys dynamic, to promote
their role as group members (McCollough, Crowell, and Napoli 2017), building social
capital and enabling channels for the publicsparticipation in order to preserve the jour-
nals regard as a trustworthy community service (Deuze, Bruns, and Neuberger 2007). A
connection between journalists and their audiences is a crucial element for fostering
news consumption and trust, and it is also a necessary component for understanding audi-
ences needs and wants (Nah and Yamamoto 2018). A real and long-time relationship
between audiences and journalists is thus fundamental to address readerssocial reality
and interest in public aairs and politics, especially in rural areas or suburbs where local
newspapers are usually the main source of news. Taking into account how previous
research has problematized the links between local media use, civic engagement and
eective problem solving capacities (Bakker and de Vreese 2011; Farnham et al. 2012;
Nah and Yamamoto 2018), it is reasonable to assume that, if there is a tightly knit
feeling of belonging both by the readers and journalists and a strong consideration by
readers on the key role of local news outlets in informing local communities, audiences
will be more sensitive towards local news organizations nancial state. Therefore, it can
be assumed that citizens that perceived that journalist are engaged and understand
their local community may feel more prone to contribute to their nancial stability by
paying or giving donations for such services. In a more formal hypothesis:
(H2) Citizens that perceive that journalist are personally engaged and understand the history
of their local community are more likely to pay, subscribe, donate or becoming members of a
local news service
Similarly, recent research on political communication shows that news consumption
positively correlates with citizensparticipation (Gil de Zúñiga et al. 2013), by increasing
the knowledge about public aairs and politics and providing mobilizing information.
Readers exposed to social issues are also more likely to be politically involved (Scheufele,
Shanahan, and Kim 2002), while traditional consumption and social media use for news are
positive predictors of online and oine political participation (Strömbäck and Shehata
2010; Bakker and de Vreese 2011). The relationship between citizenscontent creation
and paying intent for news has yet to be explored, but very similar patterns to those of
political participation might be expected. Specically, previous research on the antece-
dents of user content creation indicates that younger adults (Jones and Fox 2009) and
people belonging to ethnic minorities (Harp et al. 2010) are more prone to engage in
news creation activities.
Extant research on citizensnews consumption suggests that trust in journalists led to
increased levels of news consumption (Fletcher and Park 2017), while positive perceptions
of professional journalism have a positive inuence on citizensnews consumption habits
(Gil de Zúñiga and Hinsley 2013). In short, how people relate to journalists, their practices,
and their performance explains certain orientations towards journalism. One of these
orientations may relate to readerspaying intent. Citizens who are interested in the
news making process, who create their own local news content and are interested in
local news more generally might also be more willing to pay for news. The local signi-
cance of news outlets in shaping citizenslocal reality and readerscontribution by
means of content creation might be a stimulus for becoming increasingly attached to
their local news source and contributing to its nancial stability. Therefore, it can be
assumed that those citizens that have created local news content may be more prone
to pay for local news services too. In a more formal hypothesis:
(H3) Citizens who create their own local news contents are more likely to pay, subscribe,
donate or becoming members of a local news service.
The analysis in this study is based on a representative Pew Research Center survey con-
ducted in 2018. The overall target population for the survey was non-institutionalized
persons age 18 and over, living in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. In
total 34.898 were surveyed. The margin of sampling error for the weighted estimates is
±0.82 percentage points. Since the analysis is based on secondary data, the methodology
information, the questionnaire development and testing, the data collection protocol, the
data quality checks and weighting are publically available in website of the Pew Research
Center ( The results of the study carried out by the
Pew Research Center (Journalism & Media) are descriptive. That is, only descriptive stat-
istics are used to explore the general situation of US local news without advancing any
inferential tests. The analysis performed and the results obtained in this manuscript are
new, except for the descriptive (raw) data in relation to single-item variables.
Independent and Dependent Variables
Customer paying behaviour for news. The dependent variable was measured asking respon-
dents if in the past year, have you directly paid or given money to any local news source
by subscribing, donating or becoming a member. The values of this variable were binary 0
for no (N= 26.549) and 1 for yes (N= 7.982).
Perception on nancial state of local outlets. Respondents were asked thinking about
the nancial state of your local news media, how well do you think your local news
outlets are doing nanciallyon a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = not at all well
to 4 = very well (M= 2.88; SD = 0.75).
Citizens content creation. Respondents were asked do you ever post or submit your
own local news content, such as articles, videos or photos, to a news outlet, listserv or
social media group. The values of this variable were binary 0 for no (N= 30.810) and 1
for yes (N= 3.850).
Journalists role. Respondents were asked how important do they think it is for local jour-
nalists to be personally engaged in the local communityand understand the history of
the community(two-item averaged scale, 1 = not at all important to 4 = very important;
Cronbachsα= 0.73; mean = 3.38; SD: 0.64).
Control Variables
In order to control for potential confounds, the statistical models also include a variety of
variables that may explain relationships between the variables of interest. The rst set of
controls includes socio-demographic variables (age, gender, income, and race) and
respondentslocal attachment to their local community. Then, three more variables con-
trolled for the eect of news consumption patterns: social media user for local news con-
sumption, easiness of local news consumption and news interest.
Local attachment. Respondents were asked how attached do they feel to their local
community on a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = not at all to 4 = very (mean =
3.05; SD: 0.78)
Social media use for news. Respondents were asked how often do you get local news and
information from a social media site such as Facebook, YouTube or Snapchat, on a four-
point Likertscale rangingfrom 1 = not atall closelyto 4 = very closely(mean = 2.57; SD:1.12).
Easiness of local news consumption. Respondents were asked how easy is it to stay
informed about local crime,local government and politics,local weather,local arts
and culture, such as museums, concerts and theatre,local restaurants, night clubs and
bars,local trac and transportation,local sport,local jobs and unemployment,
local community activities and gatherings, such as festivals and recreational clubs,
local schools, school events and studentsand changing prices for local goods and ser-
vices, such as gas, tolls and food(11-item averaged scale, 1 = very hard to 4 = very easy;
Cronbachsα= .88; mean = 3.27; SD = 0.43).
News interest. Respondents were asked how closely do they follow international news,
national news,local news,news about your neighbourhood(four-item averaged scale,
1 = not at all closely to 4 = very closely; Cronbachsα= .75; mean = 3.01; SD = 0.64).
Statistical Analysis
The model constructed is based on a binomial logistic regression, analysing the probability
of paying for news as a dependent variable. Logistic regression tests the probability of a
dichotomous event occurringin this case, paying or not for news. The predicted pro-
portion of activities follows the logistic model of ln P/(1P
, where P
is the prob-
ability of paying for news. The independent variables were introduced in four dierent
blocks: demographics, social and media antecedents, the variables of interest and the
interaction terms (see Table 1 for zero-order correlations).
The rst hypothesis (H1) proposed that the lower the readersperceptions about the
nancial state of local news media, the higher chances of paying for news. Table 2
shows that, consistent with H1, Readers that perceive that the nancial situation of local
outlets is weak, are more likely to pay, subscribe, donate or becoming a member of a
local news service (β=.527; e
= .590; p< .01). Older adults (β= .695; e
= 2.004; p
< .01), white non-Hispanics (β= .299; e
= 1.348; p< .01), with higher incomes (β= .165;
= 1,180; p< .01), attached to their local communities (β= .311; e
= 1.365; p< .01),
those who use social media for new local news consumption (β= .075; e
= 1.078; p
< .01), and interest in news (β= .685; e
= 1.983; p< .01), were also likely to say that they
have pay for news. Therefore, H1 is supported.
H2 predicted that citizens that perceive that journalist are personally engaged and
understand the history of their local community are more likely to pay, subscribe,
donate or becoming a member of a local news service. Consistent with H2, the analysis
reported a signicant and positive association between the role of journalists in local com-
munities and readers paying behaviour (β= .183; e
= 1.201; p< .01). Therefore, H2 is sup-
ported. The third hypothesis stated a direct, positive association between citizenscontent
creation and paying behaviour. Consistent with H3 citizens that create news content are
more likely to pay, subscribe, donate or becoming a member of a local news service (β
= .818; e
= 2.266; p< .01).
Table 1. Zero order correlations.
Mean SD Age Income
Social media use for local
Easiness of local news
Age 2.86 0.952
Income 5.72 2.269 .055**
Local attachment 3.05 0.783 .228** .115**
Social media use for news 2.42 1.127 .257** .103** .030**
News interest 3.01 0.644 .331** .080** .321** .040**
Easiness of local
3.27 0.435 .031** .027** .212** .090** .271**
Financial state 2.88 0.757 .010 .097** .059** .066** .116** .275**
Journalist role 3.384 0.648 .064** .037** .186** .082** .244** .247** .152**
Finally, three research questions were explored. RQ1 examines a possible interaction
eect of citizensperception on the nancial state of local outlets on age. Table 2
shows a negative, statistically signicant interaction eect with age (β=.093; e
= .911;
p< .05). Therefore, the relation between the perception on the nancial state of local
outlets and readers paying behaviour is higher when age decreases (Figure 1). Put dier-
ently, those who report a lower perception on the nancial state of local outlets (i.e., con-
sider them in a weak nancial situation), and are older, are more likely to pay, subscribe,
donate or becoming a member of a local news service. According to Holbert and Park
(2019), nomenclature, the nature of the interaction eect follows a contributory, conver-
gent negative model.
Discussion and Conclusions
The free to fee transition has triggered a myriad of challenges for news organizations
worldwide. Readersdigital consumption patterns, the raise of social media use for
news and the growing diculties of news organizations in monetizing digital contents
(Costera-Meijer and Groot-Kormelink 2015; Cawley 2019), has also deepen the nancial
state of local, regional and national newspapers. Many news organizations have
responded to these challenges implementing paid content strategies based on business
models that ask readers to pay, increasingly relying in readerseconomic transactions as
a crucial source of income (Goyanes 2014). This article explores how readersperceptions
on the nancial state of local news organizations, journalistsengagement with local com-
munities and readerscontent creation practices aect readerspaying behaviour. Based
on a US representative sample from the Pew Research Center, the study oers three
inter-related contributions to this line of inquire, arguing that the psychology of readers
Table 2.Logistic regression analysis predicting readerspaying behaviour for local news services.
Readerspaying behaviour
βExp (β)
Block 1: Demographics
Age .695** 2.004
Gender (male) .076 1.079
Race (White non-Hispanic) .299** 1.348
Race (Black non-Hispanic) .114 .893
Race (Hispanic) .196 .822
Income .165** 1.180
Cox & Snell; Nagelkerke R
.103 .150
Block 2: Social and media antecedents
Local attachment .311** 1.365
Social use for news .075** 1.078
Interest in news .685** 1.983
Easiness of local consumption .038 1.038
Cox & Snell; Nagelkerke R
.129 .188
Block 3: Variables of interest
Perception on nancial state of local outlets .527** .590
Perception on journalist role .183** 1.201
Citizen content creation .818** 2.266
Cox & Snell; Nagelkerke R
.160 .233
Block 4: Interaction terms
Perceptions on nancial state of local outlets * Age .093* .911
Cox & Snell; Nagelkerke R
.160 .233
*p< 0.05, **p< 0.01.
and the strategic specicities of local news organizations are crucial elements to under-
stand citizensattitudes towards the potential economic value of news and the role of
local outlets in society.
First, results show that paying behaviour psychology is ultimately related to readers
perceptions on the nancial state of local news organizations. For many readers, local
newspapers are key to be informed about public aairs and politics, fostering also inte-
gration and a sense of belongingness (McCollough, Crowell, and Napoli 2017). These rel-
evant specicities of local outlets make them a fundamental source of information and a
crucial institution to connect communities with their local reality (Franklin and Richardson
2002), turning local outlets in an indispensable agent to structure many geographical
domains. As such, many readers may feel prone to contribute to their nancial stability,
if they perceive local news organizations are in need, as previous marketing studies
suggest (Basil, Ridgway, and Basil 2008; Verhaert and Van den Poel 2011).
Results thus demonstrate the strong presence and incidence of local news outlets and
their connection with audiences, specically when they are under economic constrains. In
general, most news readers are concerned about the nancial stability of their local outlets
and as a result, they are inclined to contribute to their economic strength by means of sub-
scriptions or donations. These economic transactions, in the eye of audiences, are arguably
more preferable than the disappearance or bankruptcy of their fundamental source of
Figure 1. The gure shows the interaction term of age (moderator) on the relationship between
readersperceptions on the nancial state of local news organizations and probability to pay for
local news. Group dierences in readersperceptions on the nancial state of local news organizations
and age are the mean and ±1 SD from the mean.
local news content. If local news organizations disappear or went bankruptcy, many
readers will lack fundamental information about their local communities, a scenario that
they prefer to avoid by paying for such services.
The study also contributes to the literature of the psychology of paying behaviour by
exploring the moderating role of age on the impact of readersperceptions of local
news organizations nancial state on paying behaviour. This study adds to previous litera-
ture by underscoring the dynamics of that relationship. Results demonstrate that the
relationship between readersperceptions and paying behaviour is negative regardless
of age; and that older readers are more likely to pay for local news at both low and
high levels of readersperceptions on the nancial state of local newspapers.
In short, the results demonstrate older readers tend to be more prone to pay for local
news services, especially when they are concerned about the nancial situation of local
outlets. This is arguably due to the long-standing relationship between local outlets and
audiences (Bew 2006; Barnett and Townend 2015), older readerstraditional news con-
sumption habits, and the role of local news organizations as fundamental source of
local information and local energizers, specially for older citizens (UNC 2018). In this
sense, it may be possible that older readers may be more dependent on the news pro-
vided by local organizations due to their potential isolation and their traditional consump-
tion habits. This weak position may push many readers to make an economic eort to
maintain their local news outlets and hence continuing their habitual news consumption
patterns. On the other hand, younger readers may be fully or supercially informed about
their local communities by social media use for news, and thus may feel that the specic
relevance of local news organizations to provide local information is suciently covered
by other alternative platforms. As a consequence, their concern on the nancial situation
of local news organizations is weak, which in turn negatively aects their paying
Second, results show that journalistsengagement with their communities is a crucial
factor to increase readerspaying behaviour. Specically, this perception or sense of
attachment between news-workers and audiences, trigger readerseconomic transactions
in the form of subscriptions or donations. Therefore, as previous studies suggested (Bakker
and de Vreese 2011; Farnham et al. 2012; McCollough, Crowell, and Napoli 2017; Nah and
Yamamoto 2018), how journalists engage, understand and explore readerscommunitar-
ian issues and challenges, aect readersperceptions of their professional performance,
increasing, in turn, their paying behaviour for such services.
It is normal to think that a real connection and engagement between journalists and
their audiences will revert to product quality, as news-workers will produce more and
better news pieces in relation to the issues and demands of their local audiences. This
product quality is a basic condition to increase readerspaying behaviour, as former
studies suggest (Chen and Thorson 2019), and the prove of journalistscommitment
with the communities they serve. Therefore, a better economic performance of news
organizations rst requires that all the involved agents, both in the production and con-
sumption of news contents, feel to some extend participant of the nal product and
the histories that are daily reected in the newspaper. If this preliminary condition is
not professionally met, many readers may feel disconnected form the potential contri-
bution of local newspapers in the structuration of local communities, decreasing their per-
ception on local outletssocial relevance and hence paying behaviour.
Finally, the study explores the relationship between readerscontent creation and
paying intent, showing a positive relation between both variables. Previous studies
have explored the potential connection between readerscontent creation and attitudes
towards journalism. Specically, this study contributes to previous eorts exploring how
readers relate to journalism practice and, in this case, their paying behaviour. In short,
readersthat have created local news content are more prone to pay for local news ser-
vices in the form of subscriptions, donations or memberships, which emphasize the con-
nection citizen journalism, professional journalism and paying behaviour. In conclusion,
the main theoretical implications emanating from the observations made in this article
include: (1) a reassessment of the crucial relevance of local news services and the psychol-
ogy of readersnews consumption in shaping their paying behaviour and (2) the key role
of age in negatively moderating readersperception on the nancial stability of local news
organizations and paying behaviour.
Limitations and Future Studies
This article has some limitations that should be addressed by future research. First, the cross-
sectional nature of the survey data doesnt allow the study to identify with certainty the
direction of the causal patterns underlying the correlations found. Therefore, the study
cannot rule out the possibility that the causal orders are reversed. More robust causal
claims would be warranted by longitudinal or experimental rather than cross-sectional
survey data and more work is needed to disentangle the causal mechanisms behind the cor-
relations presented here. Thus, the relationships theorized in this paper should be inter-
preted with caution. Future research may adopt a longitudinal design to draw causal
inferences with greater condence. Second, the dependent variable (customer paying
behaviour) includes three dierent modes readerscan contribute to the nancial stability
of news organizations: subscription, donation and membership. The interpretation of
results should include these three typologies. Future studies may delimitate customers
paying behaviour just to subscription based models, paying intent, or willingness to pay,
as previous studies have done (Goyanes 2015). Relatedly, the dependent variable does
not dierentiate between online and oine local news, a fundamental aspect to understand
readerseconomic evaluations, aecting also to the potential dierences in readersage and
paying behaviour. Future studies might also consider the implementation of qualitative
methodologies to understand readersperception and attitudes towards the economic
value of online news, problematizing the main motivations behind paying behaviour.
Third, as the statistical inference came from a secondary analysis from the Pew Research
Center, the generation and modication of items were not possible at the survey design
stage. This circumstance has precluded the study to include as control variables relevant
factors that would make the analysis more robust, introducing controls like access to other
local news sources (local newspaper competition or the presence of community radio).
Fourth and nally, data for this study comes from a national survey (i.e., supra-regional),
and thus for the analysis of online local news organizations, the regional and local perspec-
tive would be empirically more accurate. Limitations aside this study contributes to the
stabilised literature by evidencing the psychology of readerspaying behaviour and the
moderating role of age in explaining readersperceptions of local news organizations
nancials state and readerspaying behaviour.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
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Getting users to pay for news remains a key challenge in journalism. With advertising revenues dwindling, news organizations have become increasingly dependent on reader revenue. This paper explores reasons news users have for not paying for (print and digital) news. 68 participants tried a free three-week newspaper trial subscription and afterward were interviewed about their considerations for (not) getting a paid subscription. Participants had four main reasons not to pay for news: price, sufficient freely available news, not wanting to commit oneself, and delivery and technical issues. A key finding is that digital entertainment subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify seemed central to how younger participants thought about paying for news. Another finding that stands out is that when referencing price, participants had a full print subscription in mind, even when their preferred subscription type was a less costly weekend-only or digital subscription. Participants also discussed future scenarios in which they might consider paying for news: a lower price, a flexible service, a one-stop for reliable news, the added value of higher quality news, and payment as a commitment device disciplining participants into actually reading the news.
Conceptually aligned with the epistemologies of digital journalism, and in line with the definition of ‘total journalism’, this chapter presents a mapping of the contemporary digital journalist’s professional profile, highlighting the skills for ‘being’ a journalist, and ‘performing’ journalistic activities in the new century. This is based on meta-research conducted on the Scopus and Google Scholar databases, and the Capes Catalogue, for a longitudinal study of the bibliographical framework between 2000 and 2020, combined with the application of a questionnaire with 31 legacy and local digital media editors in Brazil. Evidence indicates that contemporary digital journalistic work is experiencing a trend towards platformization and surrounded by constant adaptability to new technologies, journalism is undergoing a crisis continuum, accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With insecure work, and a context of datafication and algorithmization, the journalist needs to address the need for constant innovation and qualification, without neglecting the ethos of the profession.
Local and regional journalism is perceived to aid the functioning of democracy. Yet local publications are increasingly being forced to close due to the collapse of pre-digital news business models. An emerging area of scholarship considers potential funding solutions for local news media. One key enquiry is how local news publishers may attract more revenue from their audiences. This is a difficult task for all news organisations, yet even more so for local news publishers due to evidence news consumers are less willing to pay for local news than other types. This paper contributes by developing a deeper conceptual understanding of factors contributing to people being unwilling to pay for local news. We use data from a 2019 3-month digital ethnographic regional Australian case study to identify several structural and relational factors that contributed to participants being unwilling to subscribe to their local publication. We consider how these findings may be used by local news publishers to maintain and increase their subscription base.
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This study explores how news authorship, exclusiveness, and media type affect readers' paying intent for digital contents. A web-based experiment involving 602 Spanish adults reveals that authorship (prestigious journalist), exclusiveness, and media type (legacy media and new media over unknown media) increase readers' economic value assessments of online news. In addition, our results show that the interaction between authorship and media type is affected by the level of news exclusiveness: when an online article is written by a prestigious journalist and is exclusive, readers' heuristic assessments of its economic value are biased toward new media over legacy ones, and thus privilege the former and penalize the latter in their pecuniary evaluations. These results might point to a change in readers' consumption patterns, favoring the brand values, and news production processes of new media over legacy ones.
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Very little is known about public perceptions of journalists outside Europe and the United States. Even less is known about the role of these attitudes in sustaining civic life around the world. Using individual and country-level survey data, this study explores public attitudes of press performance and their relationship with news consumption and civic participation in 22 countries. The study argues that the nature of civic and local participatory behaviors is often intertwined with notions about what is “good journalism.” Results suggest that public evaluations of press performance influence news use. News consumption is also tightly related to civic participation, even in markedly divergent cultural contexts. Citizens’ assessment of journalism practice is also a positive moderator of these relationships. This study builds on international comparative work related to the effects of press freedom and journalism practice on stimulating public life.
This study examines antecedents of paying for news subscriptions. Taking the customer-perceived value approach, we investigate the impact of perceived quality and perceived journalistic and societal value of news. News habit strength, different motivations for news use, and entertainment spending were also examined for their value in predicting how much people report paying for news. Results of a national survey (N = 403) show that perceived quality of news, habit strength, motivation of social–cultural interactions, and entertainment spending are positively predictive of how much people pay, after demographic controls. These findings not only suggest practical implications for news organizations seeking to increase subscriber support but also raise critical questions about how Americans’ relationships with newspaper news is degrading.
Declining advertising revenue and print copy sales have propelled extensive paywall experiments in local newspapers to generate new revenue and fund local journalism. The success of these experiments is ultimately depending on whether or not they deliver the value that customers require. This article studies local newspapers’ potential to build successful paywalls by conducting a two-sided analysis of paywall value propositions and local news audiences’ responses to these value propositions. Drawing on mixed methods – in-depth interviews with 20 newspaper managers and a national survey (N = 1586) among local newspaper audiences – our study identifies a major gap between intended value of paywalls and customer value perception and behavior. These are misalignments between the intended attractiveness of paywalled content and audience attitude toward this content, and misalignments between access to paywalled content and use. Local newspapers’ offerings are particularly misaligned with younger, lower income and lower news interest customers. When these groups hit a paywall, they most likely bounce off.
This study integrates communication mediation, communication and social capital, and communication infrastructure to investigate how locality-oriented communication activities, including media use and interpersonal communication, are associated with citizen journalism practice conceived as a form of civic participation. To test an integrative model, we collected data through a web survey of a U.S. national online panel (N = 1,201). Results reveal that local newspaper use and interpersonal discussion were associated with citizen journalism participation both directly and indirectly through organizational membership and neighborhood belonging. Results also show that local newspaper use and interpersonal discussion were linked with citizen journalism participation through organizational membership and neighborhood belonging, respectively, and collective efficacy in serial. These results entail theoretical, practical, and policy implications.
This study examines the corporate annual reports of three leading UK legacy newspaper publishers (Guardian Media Group, Daily Mail and General Trust and Trinity Mirror) across 15 financial years from 2002. It tracks how the publishers reshaped their corporate frameworks and business and product portfolios in responding to market, consumer and technological shifts in the digital era. In particular, the study addresses the implications of digital and market upheavals for the corporations’ traditional roles as custodians of and operational contexts to journalism’s values paradigm. It evaluates the extent to which the corporations sought to protect news’s commodity value and journalism’s public interest norms within their digital transition strategies, which became increasing sites of managerial focus and resource allocations from the mid-2000s.
Media companies are facing the need to adjust their established business models owing to media convergence. Applications (apps) for mobile devices such as tablet computers offer the potential to enter new markets in order to overcome decreasing revenue from established distribution channels (i.e. selling printed newspapers). This study uses a choice-based conjoint analysis to investigate (a) whether consumers demonstrate willingness to pay (WTP) for tablet news apps and (b) whether online advertising is negatively related to consumers’ WTP. The results reveal that two segments of the market for tablet news apps can be distinguished: a large segment (about 60%) of our sample lacks WTP for tablet news apps, whereas a smaller segment (about 40%) of our sample exhibits moderate WTP.
Trust has long been considered an important factor that influences people’s relationship with news. However, the increase in the volume of information available online, together with the emergence of new tools and services that act as intermediaries and enable interactivity around the news, may have changed this relationship. Using Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey data (N = 21,524), this study explores the impact of individual trust in the news media on source preferences and online news participation behaviour, in particular sharing and commenting, across 11 countries. The results show that those with low levels of trust tend to prefer non-mainstream news sources like social media, blogs, and digital-born providers, and are more likely to engage in various forms of online news participation. These associations tend to be strongest in northern European countries, but are weaker elsewhere. Seeking alternative views and attempting to validate the credibility of news may be among the motivations behind these associations.