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How Abundant Content Changes User Behavior

Will consumers pay for online news and entertainment they now receive at no cost? In its latest market study, Nielsen asked more than 27,000 consumers across 52 countries, and the answer is maybe they will, maybe they won't.

As expected, the vast majority (85 percent) prefer that free (advertiser or sponsor supported) content remain that way.

Online content for which consumers are most likely to pay -- or have already paid -- are those they normally pay for offline, including theatrical movies, music, games and select videos such as current television shows.

Consumers are least likely to pay for content that is essentially homegrown online, often by other consumers. These include social communities, podcasts, consumer-generated videos and blogs.

In between are an array of news formats -- newspapers, magazines, Internet-only news sources and radio news and talk shows -- created by professionals, relatively expensive to produce and, in the case of newspapers and magazines, commonly sold offline.

Yet much of their "professionally produced" content has become a commodity, readily available elsewhere online for free. Clearly, the transition from content scarcity to free and open abundance has changed online user behavior.

The Nielsen market study found the following:

- Better than three out of every four survey participants (78%) believe if they already subscribe to a newspaper, magazine, radio or television service they should be able to use its online content for free.

- At the same time, 71% of global consumers say online content of any kind will have to be considerably better than what is currently free before they will pay for it.

- Nearly eight out of every ten (79%) would no longer use a web site that charges them, presuming they can find the same information at no cost.

- As a group, consumers are ambivalent about whether the quality of online content would suffer if companies could not charge for it -- 34% think so while 30% do not; and the remaining 36% have no firm opinion.

- But they are far more united (62%) in their conviction that once they purchase content, it should be theirs to copy or share with whomever they want.

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