"Forty percent is a strong number but that means the majority are not willing to pay," said Keith Herndon, a visiting professor of journalism at the University of Georgia and a former journalist. "We have to think of ways of making the content compelling enough that someone would be willing to pay for it."
The proliferation of free news online and new ways for advertisers to reach consumers has besieged publishers of newspapers and magazines. Newspapers' print ad revenue, their primary source of cash, has dropped 63 percent, to $16.4 billion, in 2014 from 2003, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Daily paid newspaper circulation reached a peak in 1984, at 63.3 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America. That represented a quarter of the country's population.
Daily paid circulation has now shrunk to 40.4 million, even as the U.S. population has grown by about a third.
There have been attempts to capitalize on the shift online. Digital ad revenues from newspaper websites have more than doubled as print ad revenue collapsed, but still come to only $3.5 billion-just a fraction of print ad revenue last year. And some major news organizations in recent years began charging for access to their websites and selling digital-only subscriptions, rather than posting content for free online.