The Web may seem like the land of something for nothing. Free video. Free news. Even free tools such as word processing and spreadsheets.
But almost two-thirds of adult Internet users in the U.S. have paid for access to at least one of these intangible items online, according to a new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Whether people will pay for different types of material on the Web is among the most pressing questions facing media companies in the 21st century.
As people shift their attention to the Internet from more traditional ways of enjoying media, the companies that provide everything from movies to mystery novels want to make sure they can still get paid for what they do. The big TV networks want viewers to pay for full access to episodes of their favorite shows. Newspaper companies want readers to pay for news. Book publishers want higher prices for digital editions of new releases.
The new figures from Pew suggest paying for content online is at least not a completely foreign idea for most people.
About a third of respondents said they have paid for digital music. Same for software.
Behind that came mobile apps for cell phones or tablet computers at 21 percent. Then digital games at 19 percent and newspaper, magazine or journal articles at 18 percent.
The survey found that among people who paid for content, the typical user spent about $10 a month. However, there are some extremely high-end users, such that the average among those who have paid for content is about $47 a month. That includes subscriptions and individual files downloaded or accessed.
The survey of 755 Internet users in the U.S. was conducted Oct. 28-Nov. 1 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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