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Study: So people do pay for online content

Almost two-thirds of Internet users polled by Pew Internet have paid for music, software, or other intangible online content, with the typical person shelling out around $10 a month.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

It's a long-standing truism that people won't pay for online content, but a new study from Pew Internet suggests otherwise.

Among the 750 Internet users in the U.S. surveyed by Pew for a study out today, 65 percent said they've paid for online content.

Music, software, and mobile apps were the most popular items among paying users. But the range of content that people were willing to pay for ran the gamut from games to news articles to adult material.

The survey focused on 15 different kinds of online content to see what people had purchased. Pew specifically limited the field to intangible content, such as digital music, software, and news stories, rather than physical items such as clothes, CDs, and books.

Digital music and software proved to be the most popular items, with 33 percent of those questioned willing to pay for them online. Mobile apps were next in the list, with 21 percent saying they've bought them online. Other common items were digital games, magazine and newspaper stories, videos, and ringtones.

Lower on the list were cheat codes for video games and access to specific Web sites, such as online dating services. And only 2 percent admitted to buying adult content online.

Pew Internet

How much are people willing to spend? On average, the people polled spend around $10 per month on online content. The majority (43 percent) spent amounts ranging from $1 to $10, while 25 percent said they spend between $11 and $30. And 7 percent said they spend around $100 a month.

Most (23 percent) of those surveyed said they pay for subscription services as opposed to the 16 percent who download individual files and the 8 percent who access streaming content.

Some surveys have found that many people won't pay for online content, at least not for specific types of content, such as newspaper subscriptions. But the rise in broadband is making it increasingly easier and faster for people to download and pay for the content they want, such as software, movies, music, e-books, and even news articles, according to Pew.

To compile its study, Pew reached out to more than 1,000 adults in the U.S., of whom 755 were Internet users. The survey was conducted for Pew by Princeton Data Source from October 28 to November 1 of this year.