The iPad and the end of free online content?

After two months of promise and hype, Apple will finally ship its iPad tablet in the US in early April, and to other markets shortly afterwards. Apple’s new device hopes to make the consumption of digital media easier. The iPad is able to browse the web without the need for a keyboard or mouse. Movies and music can both seen and heard on the device. Even eBooks can be purchased from Apple’s new iBooks store. Marvellous.

However, from watching the video above, are consumers really willing to pay for online news and entertainment, that they currently get for free on the web today?

Nielsen recently asked more than 27,000 consumers across 52 countries, and the answer was ‘maybe.’ 85% of surveyed people prefer free content to remain free. However, participants did report, that many would consider paying for certain categories of digital content.

Looking at Nielson’s graph below, consumers are most likely to pay for movies, music, games and current TV shows. This is good news for Apple and other developers of Tablet devices. In contrast, consumers are least likely to pay for ‘user generated content’ such as podcasts and consumer generated videos and blogs.

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The success of the Apple’s iPad, will likely depend on whether everyday consumers are happy to trade in their existing books, magazines and newspapers for digital equivalents. These items have become somewhat of a commodity, and many people are happy to access content from a variety of online sources for example, Google News for free. However, Rupert’s Murdoch’s News Corporation, will soon charge for online newspaper content, ending the “free online news” culture that many observe on the web today. This will likely have a big impact on Google News, which currently aggregates free news content from Murdoch’s news empire.

It is interesting to note from Nielson’s research, that there is indeed a place for “paid digital content.” However, the content will need to be of a sufficient standard before consumers are willing to hand over their hard earned cash.

  • 78% of participants felt that if they already subscribe to a newspaper, magazine, radio or TV service, they should be able to access the online version for free.
  • 79% of participants stated that they would stop using a website, if it started levying charges to access content online.
  • 62% of participants stated that they should have “full control” over their purchased content. In other words, they want to be able to copy and share it with their friends and family. 

2010 will indeed be an interesting year for hardware devices and the content that powers them. Whether consumers are willing to ditch their newspapers and magazines for their digital counterparts, and pay for news content is still yet to be seen.  Newspapers and books are cheap, portable and don’t require batteries to power them. The same can’t be said about tablet devices! Also, I wonder how many people will actually travel around with these devices? I suspect many will end up living at home.

Will you be getting a tablet device this year?

You can read Nielson’s full report below


Nielson – Paid Online Content


Author: Jas

Jas Dhaliwal is a highly experienced International Social Media Strategist. Currently working as AVG Technologies, Director of Communities and Online Engagement, he specialises in building and engaging with social communities across the web. Born and bred in London, he is passionate about technology and social anthropology. Prior to AVG, Jas launched the social media program for Microsoft’s MVP Award program. Jas holds a BSc (Hons) in Information Systems and has an MBA from Brunel University in London, England. You can follow Jas as @Jas on Twitter or on Google+

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