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Wealthier Americans pay for their news more often than those in other income levels: report

Empty newspaper stands
The Associated Press/ Paul Sancya
Empty local newspaper stands are seen in Detroit, Michigan. New research shows around two local papers close in the United States each week.

Wealthier Americans are much more likely to pay for their news, according to a survey released Thursday from Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab. 

The survey found that 47 percent of individuals who make $150,000 or more annually have donated money to a news outlet, paid for access to news or bought an issue of a news magazine. Just more than a quarter of those who make $50,000 to $100,000 annually and those who make $100,000 to $150,000 annually said the same. 

Only 20 percent of people making $30,000 to $50,000 and 14 percent of those making less than $30,000 have said they donated or paid for news. 

Researchers found that Americans across all demographics — 52 percent — believe that advertising should be the largest source of funding for journalism. Less than 10 percent said most funding should come from individuals’ direct payments or government funding, and 4 percent said it should come from donations. 

But almost a quarter of respondents said news organizations should be funded by all these categories evenly. 

A majority of respondents said they did not think it is reasonable for news organizations to charge people for all content, access to news first or newsletters. A plurality (47 percent) said outlets should not charge for in-person or online events or exclusive content. 

But the poll did find that millennials and members of Generation Z are much more likely than older Americans to believe it is reasonable for news outlets to charge for in-person or online events and exclusive content. 

Of those who have paid for news, 86 percent said they have paid through a subscription. Almost 40 percent said they have donated to news outlets or paid through memberships, while 10 percent said they have made micropayments to news outlets and 5 percent said they have paid for a day pass. 

Only 1 percent of respondents said they would pay to be able to continue reading a story or watch a video they started. Almost half said they would try to find the article for free from another news outlet, and a quarter said they would move on to another story.

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