2 in 3 Web Users Pay for Content

January 4, 2011

pew-online-content-payments-jan11.gifNearly two-thirds of internet users (65%) have paid to download or access some kind of online content from the internet, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Music, software, and apps are the most popular content that internet users have paid to access or download. The online content assessed by Pew includes only “intangible” digital products such as software, articles and music that need not have a physical form.

Almost Half of Users Have Paid for 1-2 Content Types

Of those internet users who have purchased online content, nearly half (46%) have purchased only one or two of the types of content covered in the survey (see below). Some 16% have purchased six or more types of content.

In addition, 15% of users who have purchased online content have purchased three types, while slightly more have purchased five types (12%) than four types (11%).

Subscription Service Leading Payment Method

pew-online-content-types-jan11.gifConcerning methods of accessing online content, the majority of the internet users pay for subscription services (23%), as opposed to downloading an individual file (16%), or accessing streaming content (8%). As shown in the accompanying chart, most internet users who have accessed online content have utilized only one method of access and payment (66%). No respondent has used more than three methods.

Digital Music, Software Most Popular Downloaded Content

Pew findings show that:

  • 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.

And 6% of internet users said they had paid for another kind of content not mentioned in the list of 15 the survey offered.

Typical User Pays about $10 per Month

The average expense for those who have paid for content was approximately $47 per month for material downloaded or accessed, including both subscriptions (an average of $12 per month) and individual file access (an average of $22 per month). However, some extremely high-end users push the average higher, with most purchasers spending about $10 per month.

4 in 10 US Adult Cell Phone Users Have Apps

Of the 82% of US adults today who are cell phone users, 43% have software applications on their phones, according to another recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

When taken as a portion of the entire US adult population, the previous figure equates to 35% who have a cell phone with apps. This figure includes adult cell phone users who have downloaded an app to their phone (29% of adult cell phone users) and have purchased a phone with preloaded apps (38% of adult cell phone users).

About the Data: In a survey of 755 internet users between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1 2010, respondents were asked about 15 different kinds of online material that could be purchased or accessed after a payment.

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