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Denisa Reshef Kera
Denisa Reshef Kera

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Attitudes towards paying for content: survey

In January, we conducted two surveys with a total of 143 participants to get an insight into the paying for content attitudes. We asked the participants to share:

  • name of their favorite blogger/youtuber
  • how much they currently spend on online content
  • experience with monetizing their content
  • their age

We then tested how participants respond to content creator requests for support if the counter of the creator already indicates that he got 0, 5, 10, 100, 1000 or 10 000 USD. We asked the participants to elaborate on the reasons for paying/not paying, which we coded with the help of Fiske’s four models of social relations and defined 4 personas. That part of the research is published on Tableau, we will publish the rest later.

Fiske’s models revolve around following questions which we tried to apply to WM:
*What social relations and expectations are involved in web monetization (paying for online content and visualizing/communicating the relations over counters)?
*What is the social meaning of web monetization counters and widgets?

*What do they express and communicate about the relations in the web monetization community? What does the design of the counter communicate to the individual user/community about the relations and social meaning of the payments?

We used Fiske & Haslam’s example of land and transfer of goods and services to map the models and rethink the counters. Fiske, A. P., & Haslam, N. (2005). “The four basic social bonds”

This is not a solid sociological research (the sample is small, not balanced, randomized) but this helps us formulate a better hypothesis and decide on the next stage of the experiment with counters and visibility of transactions (we think of this as possible functions of future WM counters).

Personas based on Fiske's models
We coded the results into 4 types of relational models (CS- communal sharing, AR - authority ranking, EM - equality matching, MP - market pricing) based on what the act of paying or refusing to pay signal. This helped us define 4 personas and reasons why participants do or don’t support creators: freeloaders, patrons, peers, philanthropists.

Under CS expectations we coded statements that express some cause above their own self-interests (what they get from the content or if they like it), under AR we coded the ones that express some admiration and appreciation of the content creators and its celebrity status, under EM we coned any expectations of reciprocity and under MP ideas how much the creator makes, whether the content is already offered for free.

These are the fours personas, type of content “users” and their reasons to pay or not pay, expectations and models of relations they support:

1) Customers (24%) have a very specific and clear idea what they are paying for and they expect the relation to the content creator to be well defined (clear what they are getting in return). Their relation models are Equality Matching, Market Pricing, surprisingly even Communal Sharing but not common with Authority Ranking.

Responses of a customer persona expecting community sharing (CS) model/relationship were rare but included statements like:
“Content is beneficial so paying isnt a problem” or
“I don't think people should charge their ideas on a public platform. If they do charge their members, then they should be a concrete outcome such as a certificate.”
The customer persona supporting CS has an idea of a public good (something beneficial or public) and they are paying for it or expect something concrete in return (certificate).

We coded the following reasons as EM expectations common with customers:
“ Despite how much they make, one dollar is not an amount that would break me. I would gladly contribute one dollar for having the ability to be entertained.“
“For the sake of my time management I am not paying for content filled with advertisements.”
“Once it has reached a certain threshold, I don't feel the need to donate because it seems "enough"
“Their content is useful for me to make purchases”
The EM type customer has a clear idea of a threshold and what s/he gets in return (entertainment, time management issue, useful content).

The MP type customer responses were the most common and include clearly expressed awareness about the value and price of content (not getting advertisement, fair price, affordable, part or not part of their spending habits, premium - professional content):
“1-5 is an amount I feel I can afford to support content I like. anything more would be a bit much for my budget.”
“Ads are really annoying, it ruins the viewing experiences.”
“I don't usually spend money on YouTube/bloggers.”
“I hate ads and the time it takes to load them. So I would pay for their ommision.“
“It's worth it to mean to have fewer ads which take extra time I'd rather spend on more worthwhile content”
“I feel it's a fair price to pay”
“They deserve it for the amount of content produced”
“Why would I pay? I watch youtube for free content. If I want premium content that is what Netflix/Prime are for.”

2) Patrons (22%) support content creators because they admire them, they do not express clear ideas of what they are getting in return (as customers), more some general threshold of what they deserve or that they simply like them. We coded this as an AR relational model, there is some hierarchy involved in the idea of how much to pay. We also coded a few EM and MP relation model statements.

“as he is uploading so many unknown facts”
“It's only a dollar and i like her”
“If they made over $1,000 I can help support other creators that haven't hit that mark yet, but I would support my favorite creator up until that price point.”
“I'm willing to pay because I believe that their efforts and creations are good enough that they should receive monetary rewards”
“I will pay if he hasnt made a lot. I wont pay someone that is making a lot off the video though.”
“I want to support him”
“I think that if a content creator is constantly putting out content i enjoy i should support them”
“I support his content and effort”
“I really like this YouTuber, so I would feel happy to support them and their content.”
“I like to support the content creator and make sure they can continue to comfortably do it.”
“I just love his work and willing to support him”
“I enjoy the information that Stephen offers and he is a very generous guy.”
“I enjoy the content, she takes a lot of time making the videos and should earn some money from it.”
“he has good content fun to watch”
“Because i enjoy their content I want to support them.”
Patrons expecting EM relations are more explicit about the threshold and reason they will pay or stop supporting the content creator, awareness of the standing of the creator in some hierarchy:
“I like to support creators I like but they have other revenue streams available to them that limits when and how much I'm willing to pay.”
“I pay based on whether or not I want to support them, not based on how much other people have (or have not) supported them.”
“Peoples time is worth something and the work they put into that video. However to be overpaid is my motive to not pay after a certain amount received”
“The content should either be free or not, hiding stuff behind a pay wall instantly makes me less interested. If I like the content I'll tip them some money, forcing me to pay for it is not a good look and will make me lose interest fast”
“Youtube shares advertising revenues, so they're already making money from their content. I'd only give $1 to start the ball rolling if they have no donations or only a little. If they're popular, they don't really need money from viewers. I'd rather pay for ad-free content.”

3) Freeloaders (49%) were the most common persona among our participants and they listed various reasons for not paying basically. The most common was that they simply can’t afford it in the present but plan to do it in the future or that they think that the creator makes too much or s/he is supported by brands etc.

Freeloaders expecting AR relational model refuse to pay because the creator is a celebrity and they do not see any effect their support would have, it will be invisible:
“He has so many supporter my dollar would not matter much.”
“he is already rich”
“He's a gambler who literally bets up to 10000 dollars on slots or more. He doesn't need money”
“he's a youtube so he makes money on advertisements that play on his videos...he doesnt need my money too”
“He's already rich.”
“i don't care to involve myself too much with random celebrities or youtube videos. they already make enough money as it is, so my money isn't going to do much for them”
“youtubers make money through ad revenue, so I'll do that instead... I'm poor”

There is a type of freeloader that expects CS relational model and will not support paid content that used to be free (information wants to be free):
“I think that youtube or blogger content should be free and we can donate if we want to. There should be no requirement to pay to view things that used to be free.”

The freeloaders often list EM relational models as a reason for not paying (aware it is not fair but they don’t have money currently to pay, there is similar free content, the creator makes enough, the content will be made even if they don’t contribute):
“Although I enjoy their content, there are plenty of similar videos out there--and I know he already makes a living off his content.”
“do not have funds for it”
“He made enough”
“I am barely surviving in poverty right now and can hardly pay the rent. I am not in a position to donate for nonessential things even if I enjoy them.”
“I don't have extra money to spend on not essential or important things to me.”
“I have my on expenses to worry about”
“I live below the poverty line and am about to lose my home.”
“I need the money, the utuber already makes money from people viewing his content.”
“I think they don't depend on my money to make their content.”
“I'd rather not have an expense for something that i can view for free”
“Money is tight for me at the moment”
“money problems”
“They are already making money off ads, I don't mind watching ads so I don't mind continuing to get the content truely free.”
“When they are making a lot of money, I will not pay.”
“Why would I pay them they're rich”

Freeloaders also list MP relation model as a reason for not paying (they never pay for this type of service/content, there is always how to get it for free, they don’t mind advertisement, they have other plans with their money):
“Don't believe in paying for online content.”
“I am not paying a blogger”
“I do not feel inclined to pay additional money for what can be a satisfactory free service.”
“i do not want to pay for content”
“I don't agree with paying for content”
“I don't like paying for blogs”
“I don't spend money on contents”
“I don't think that the content is worth that amount of money.”
“I dont care about adverts..I use adblock for that. As far as that particular youtuber, she has a patreon and makes money on that..I'm not gonna pay her on youtube too”
“I never pay for any subscription like that”
“I prefer saving money and use mostly free stuff both online and offline.”
“I think people on youtube make enough money.”
“i would never pay a blogger”
“I would prefer not to pay as I would not be able to afford it regularly.”
“It is free usually”
“It is not in my budget”
“it is not worth it. Too many other options on the internet.”
“It is something I can access somewhere else for free”
“It isn't professional content.”
“It's currently free”
“So much content on social media that is free, so not necessary to pay.”
“There are so many free blogs out there that I see no need to pay for them.”

4) Peers (3%) very few examples of this persona, mainly under the EM relational model expressing more complex reasons why they can’t pay or how they try to compensate in other ways (opens an interesting issue of non-monetary support of the content makers):
“I cannot afford to pay other people for their content at the moment, instead, I support them by watching and liking their videos, commenting and subscribing to their channel.”
“I feel the person has made enough money, and I would like to save my money. If the person hasn't made some money, I might give a donation.”

Under CS model we listed two abstract reasons that express why people pay:
“I live to give”
“I like to contribute”

Peer and philanthropist have more abstract and complex reasons for supporting content makers.

5) Philanthropist (3%) were also very few expressing EM and CS relational models that strangely would like to support new and less known content makers:
“after a certain point I would like to help those more in need”
“to help out”
“If the startup is small then I don't mind paying but if it is large and is generating cash then I see no real need to support them financially.”
“The likes of David Dobrik already make a lot of money with sponsorship deals. I'd rather contribute to someone who needs the money, like a charity for example.”

The philanthropist motivation seems close to some behavior we can notice in the case of the Twitch community where there are also various services supporting streamers with less than 10 viewers or even no viewers and various experiences people list as a reason to support them.

General observations about the personas and paying for content attitudes, spending habits:
More money they spend on content (under the question how much they spend currently), less they expect MP (market) relational models or AR (celebrities), they seem to have EM expectations, clear ideas what they exchange with the creator, what they gain from it. Among the ones that pay between 1 - 5 USD, the customer persona was more common with concrete reasons for what they get in return, in the 11-50 it was more the patron persona with some admiration for the creator. It is surprising that among the freeloaders that would not pay for content half actually pay in the present in various categories (1-5 USD, 6 - 10, 11 - 50, even above 50). AR model was generally more popular in the age group 25 - 34 when compared to the other demographic groups, the 35 - 44 as a group preferes MP over other models (also true of the 25 - 34), EM seems slightly more popular in the 45 - 54.

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