Online content? Indians will pay only if it is ‘paisa vasool’: Nielsen

The overwhelming majority of Indian think Internet content should remain free – and and they don’t think what they are getting now is good enough to pay for it, finds a survey by Global information and media company, The Nielsen Company.
The Nielsen survey polled more than 27,000 consumers in 54 countries globally and examined consumer attitudes to paying for online content. Results show that 29 percent Indians have already paid for books, while 19 percent have paid for online magazines, and 18 percent have paid for music. When asked on what they would consider paying for in the future, half the Indian consumers said they were prepared to pay for books , magazines & music (both 47%), and professionally produced videos, including current television shows (46%). Many consumers also indicated they would consider paying for theatrical movies (45%) and games (44%).

But 90 percent of Indians polled still felt Internet content per se, should be free rather than ‘fee’-based. Seventy percent said they might pay for online content -- but they would insist on the right to copy and share it. A good 75 percent said they would move away from a site if asked to pay for content -- ans look for a free site which offered similar content.

Nearly nine out of ten Indians believe that free content on the Internet should remain free in the future. "Internet is a huge space and content is available for free at the click of a button. Out there exists immense quantity of information but most of it lacks in quality, and this stress on quality by consumers will be a major factor in driving consumers to pay for online content," said Karthik Nagarajan, Associate Director - Nielsen Online, The Nielsen Company.
When it came to news content online - where a few media giants like the Murdoch empire have stated intent to convert to as pay mode, albeit slowly -- only one in ten Indians polled said they had paid in the past for Internet news services and half said they would not do so. But they were not unreasonable: they said they would accept advertisements as the price they have to pay for free content.

Our Take: Here, as in so many aspects of contemporary living, Indians are, down-to-earth, canny and perceptive with an instinct for sniffing out when something is as we say here, ‘paisa vasool’ or money’s worth.
Numbering some 80 million today, India’s Net enabled are unlikely to accept any drastic change in the way stuff on the Net is currently available. Remember, those who tried to make people pay for online news, flopped badly. The IndiaToday group started a web-based newspaper some years ago but when they converted it after a few months to a paid site, it was a failure – and disappeared rather quickly. Most Indian newspapers who have a web edition, offer it free – and that goes for the e-papers which are exact facsimiles of the printed edition. The Hindu, which has been an online pioneer in other ways, curiously made its e-paper a paid service to start with. The subscription was paltry – and the base of paid users is widely believed to be extremely small -- making the whole subscription operation unviable and merely an irritant. The paper has since converted it into a  free service for registered users.

The Nielsen survey  underlines this fact of Internet life. 

Bangalore March 6/ revised March 10 2010