The researchers at media consultancy Oliver & Ohlbaum surveyed 2,600 readers about their news-reading habits. And it discovered a deep seated human characteristic: promiscuity!
Even the print loyalists the researchers found, have almost no loyalty when seeking out news (or comment and analysis).
For example, it found that readers of our client the Daily Telegraph got just 8 percent of their online news from its website. They spent twice as much time visiting the BBC’s news website and more than twice as much reading other quality papers.
They were also more likely to read tabloid papers, like The Sun and the Daily Mirror, online than their own favourite paper. Others were no more loyal. Sun readers, for example, visited the websites of quality newspapers about as often as they did those of tabloids, including their own Sun.
Now come on. What's surprising about this? Nothing! We are promiscuous at heart aren't we? Especially if are allowed to be or moreso when we can afford to be ie it doesn't hit us in the pocket!
Browsing, search and book marking technology coupled with fast internet connection speeds and the allure of free quality content has made it extremely easy for us (its encouraged us) to enjoy multiple (content) partners.
But promiscuity is itself a fragile beast. Like bubbles and soap promiscuity dies when confronted with the commitment that comes with a pay wall or even registration.
My conclusion to all this is simple. The online content market place is growing up. And it’s painful. It’s coming to the end of the ‘teen’ period of discovery and exploration i.e. multiple partner 'hook ups' and is entering the more responsible phase of fewer partners and greater commitment!
Now some users will attempt to hold back the tide and try to remain in multiple relationships. Some will just settle down with the BBC. The rest will be content to choose a limited number of paid high quality partners who will provide them with all they need for a committed and informed life.
Now I am hoping that publishers will adopt micro payments to encourage me to have my chosen few trusted content sources with whom I have a paid relationship rather than pay walls which force me to make a single partner commitment. Pay walls won't work because they presuppose that consumers can get all they need from one mega 'ikea' content site. It doesn't work like that. As the O&O research says readers are promiscuous not just because they can afford be right now but more importantly because they get specific things from different trusted sources. I, for example, use BBC online for breaking news, Sun for Sport, FT for business and IHT for the World! I'm not normal but we all know that single sources don't (can't) satisfy and it’s a naïve and dangerous assumption to think they can. 'All you can eat' paid for 24 hour access doesn't do it either. I don't want to come in - gorge - and leave only to have to pay again next time. I want specifically what I want when I want it (and jettison the rest) . I would, therefore, advocate a service where I can choose and pay for the bits of content from various publishers that do it for me and have then ‘housed’ on a platform that allows me access from whatever device I choose.
Surely in this technological age this isn’t too much of an ask??