Oct. 19, 2022 (MIAMI) – Americans are more likely to think about the news media as a for-profit enterprise rather than a democratic institution, according to a new Gallup/Knight Foundation study, released today, yet their behaviors and attitudes about paying directly for news are complicated. The study shows that very few Americans have paid directly for news, and even fewer are willing to pay in the future — though there is meaningful variation based on age, income, education level and partisanship.
This report, based on a nationally representative survey of 5,593 Americans, is part one of a two-part Gallup/Knight Trust, Media and Democracy series that examines Americans’ attitudes and behaviors affecting the news industry’s long-term viability. The full report, “American Views 2022: Part 1, News in America: Public Good or Private Enterprise?” can be accessed at kf.org/usviews22pt1.
U.S. adults who report getting most of their news from a printed newspaper or magazine are the most likely to have paid directly for news (50%). By contrast, television news consumers are the least likely to have directly paid for news (though, they likely pay for cable or streaming): 16% say they have paid for it; 81% report that they have not.
Historically, Americans have been reluctant to pay for news, even though previous Gallup/Knight surveys show more than 8 in 10 view the press as critical or very important to a democratic society. Without a reliable revenue stream, concerns about the future of news remain high.
“The path to an effective democracy is based, as it always has been, on an informed citizenry. When the financial future of local media is unclear, it threatens the health of our democracy,” said Jim Brady, Knight’s vice president of journalism. “But the goals of being civically focused and financially sustainable are not at odds; in fact, many of the results of study show they are absolutely connected.”
Many Americans––especially young Americans––are open to government funding for news outlets
The study also examines Americans’ views on how the news industry should be financed. More than half (52%) believe advertising should be a news organization’s largest funding source, even though digital ad revenue fails to cover the losses many news organizations are seeing from other revenue streams.
Americans, particularly Gen Z and millennials, do show an openness to public funding that ensures the news is free to all and reliance on private donations as a way to support the news.
The report finds:
- More than half of Americans are open to government funding and private donations for news organizations to ensure the news is free for everyone, under certain conditions; this includes 70% of Millennials and 74% of Gen Z who show an openness to government funding; 89% of Millenials and 93% of Gen Z feel similarly about private donations.
- Events and newsletters could be a promising revenue source, with 35% of Americans saying it is reasonable for news organizations to charge people for in-person events and an additional 20% saying “it depends.” Twenty-seven percent say it is reasonable to charge for newsletters, and 23% for exclusive content.
- Gen Zers and millennials in particular are more open to paying for special services like events and e-newsletters than older generations: 49% of Gen Zers and 52% of millennials believe it is reasonable for news organizations to charge for events, while only 18% of baby boomers and 12% of the Silent Generation agree.
Part 2 of the Gallup/Knight survey, which explores trust in news organizations, will be released in the coming months.
Expert interviews available upon request. To read the full report, visit: kf.org/usviews22pt1
Contact: Adam Peck, West End Strategy, [email protected]
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
As social investors, Knight Foundation supports democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.
Founded by publishers who owned the largest newspaper company of their time, Knight Foundation is among the leading funders of journalism and media innovation in the country and works to promote more informed and engaged communities. In 2019, Knight doubled its investment in strengthening journalism, announcing $300 million in support over five years focusing on building the future of local news and information. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdn on social media.
Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students and citizens than any other organization in the world.