New research suggests that more Canadians are paying for news online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the industry as a whole, there has been a decline in advertising, but news platforms with paywalls and premium content have seen an increase in customer revenue.
According to the 2020 Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute, 13 per cent of Canadian internet users accessed paid content within the past year, after previously holding steady at 9 per cent. The increase in willingness to pay for news content still places Canada below the average of the forty countries included in the study, which had an average rate of 16 per cent. Among Canadians with the highest propensity to pay for online news are male, left-wing, young adults.
Looking at the results internationally, the United States has seen high growth in paid content due to the prevalence of “fake news” on some un-paid platforms. On two sides of the spectrum, Norway is also seeing high growth in the willingness to pay for news content, while the United Kingdom shows similar results to Canada with less than average amounts of people willing to invest in paid news. The differences between these countries may be attributable to accessibility to un-paid, reliable sources, or there may be other factors at play.
The revenue growth among paid news platforms in Canada in 2020 is likely related to the growing concerns about false information amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where reliable news sources are growing in demand. In a study conducted by Totum Research on behalf of News Media Canada, it was revealed that advertisements in print newspapers were deemed most trustworthy, scoring almost two times higher than other platforms such as magazines or social media sources.