A new survey from the UK crossed my desk yesterday which shows that consumers are adapting their pre-internet buying habits to the digital content they consumer online.
A couple days ago eMarketer posted the results of an April 2014 consumer survey by Ipsos MORI which showed that far more people consume content online than pay for it. A third of the 1,000 respondents in the survey reported downloading free apps, while only 8% had bought apps. Over a quarter are streaming video online, but only 9% are buying said apps. And 24% were streaming music while only 4% paid for the service.
You can see all the publicly available results here:
All in all this does not look good for anyone trying to sell content online, but as you can see in the chart there are a couple exceptions.
Ipsos MORI found that people were buying ebooks and downloadable music in greater numbers than those paying for streaming services, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
I got this piece yesterday, and after thinking about it for a while I concluded that consumers have transferred their buying habits from books and CDs to ebooks and MP3s. Similarly, they're used to getting broadcast TV and radio for free, so they're not as willing to pay for the online streaming versions.
OF course, my guesses tend to fall apart when you take apps into account; people used to pay for them, but they're not as willing to do so anymore. I would bet that comes as a result of the glut of apps and games on the market which drove the price down to effectively nothing (plus in-app purchases).
On a related note, there are similar gluts of videos on Youtube and online news sources, which might help explain why consumers aren't as willing to pay for those types of content either.
So does this portend a dark future for publishing? After all, more and more ebooks are published every year, which could have the same effect. Does this mean indie authors will have the same trouble as app developers in making a living?
I don't know, but I am hoping that the trend of buying ebooks tends to stick around. The latest data from Smashwords suggests we've already gone through peak "free ebook", with more indie authors now using discount sales to drive their marketing efforts, and that could mean we've passed the danger zone and moved on to a real market where consumers continue to pay for what they read.
What do you think?