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No category of digital content has attracted payments from more than 33% of American Net users

Pew Internet reports that 65% of American Net users (75% of the people they contacted) have paid for online, digital content. Ever. And there’s no category of goods in which more than one third of the respondents have ever paid for content.

The content could include articles, music, software, or anything else in digital form. Here are the results for the fifteen different types of content Pew asked about:

  • 33% of internet users have paid for digital music online

  • 33% have paid for software

  • 21% have paid for apps for their cell phones or tablet computers

  • 19% have paid for digital games

  • 18% have paid for digital newspaper, magazine, or journal articles or reports

  • 16% have paid for videos, movies, or TV shows

  • 15% have paid for ringtones

  • 12% have paid for digital photos

  • 11% have paid for members-only premium content from a website that has other free material on it

  • 10% have paid for e-books

  • 7% have paid for podcasts

  • 5% have paid for tools or materials to use in video or computer games

  • 5% have paid for “cheats or codes” to help them in video games

  • 5% have paid to access particular websites such as online dating sites or services

  • 2% have paid for adult content

The first three are way lower than I would have expected. That 15% have paid for ringtones I find bewildering and just a little depressing. That 2% report having paid for “adult content” I take as meaning 2% actually responded, “Yeah, I pay for porn. You gotta problem with that?”

Overall, there are a number of different conclusions we could draw:

1. The survey was flawed. (The survey questions are here [pdf]). But Pew is a reputable group, and not in service of some other group with an agenda.

2. There is such a wealth of goodness on the Net that in no single category do a majority of people have to use money to get what they want.

3. This a sign of disease: So few people are paying for anything that entire categories of goods-provisioning are going to die, taking the abundances with them.

4. This is a sign of health: New business models based on minority participation are and will emerge that will keep the categories alive, and, indeed, flourishing.

5. Most of what’s available on the Net sucks so much that we won’t pay for it.

6. We are just so over paying for things, dude.

FWIW, I find I’m willing to pay for more content these days, in part out of a sense of responsibility, in part because the payment mechanisms have gotten easier, and always if I can sense the human behind the transaction. (This is a self-report, not a principled stand.)

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