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New research on paid content online will make unhappy reading for news executives considering paywall strategies.

The latest Media and Entertainment Barometer study conducted by YouGov on behalf of accountancy firm KPMG suggests a reluctance to pay for news content and analysis even on sites that they use regularly

The research, which interviewed more than 4,000 individuals aged 16 or older during three periods between September 2009 and 2010, says just 2 per cent of respondents would be prepared to pay for unrestricted access to a website they use regularly if a subscription barrier was introduced; 79 per cent said they would go elsewhere.

Respondents who did not currently pay for online content were asked if they would become a paying customer in the next 12 months: just 9 per cent indicated that this was a possibility.

According to the study, 13 per cent of respondents had paid for content online. Amongst these music is the most commonly paid for content online (23 per cent) followed by online gaming (21 per cent), while business news and analysis, online newspapers and magazines, and TV are each paid for by 19 per cent of respondents.

The study suggests increased use of smartphones and tablet devices as a driving force to get users to pay for digital content. Twenty-seven per cent of participants in the study owned a smartphone - 44 per cent of 18-24-year-olds and 43 per cent of 25-34-year-olds owned such a mobile device. Of these, 35 per cent had downloaded paid for applications during the past year, with one in 10 of these users spending more than £10 on downloads.

"Whilst the appetite to pay for web content is moving slowly, the pace of spending money to download content on mobile devices is moving much more quickly, particularly in the crucial 18-34 demographic," says David Elms, head of media sector for KPMG, in a release.

"A key question is whether consumers, increasingly used to paying for premium content on their mobiles and tablets, will become more willing to pay for online content to their desktop - but, at the moment, it is too early to identify any discernible trends."

But the survey also suggests that the time spent on new media and that devoted to more traditional media, such as reading books and watching TV, has not narrowed over the past year. Of the participants in the study, 86 per cent said they preferred to consume media offline rather than online with "a preference for reading physical copies" cited as the most popular reasons behind this habit.

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