How Many People Would Pay for Twitter? None, According to New Study

Twitter_buttonIf you tweet, ask yourself: Would I pay for this service if it started charging? Those polled in the Center for the Digital Future‘s annual report on the impact of the internet on Americans answered a resounding “no” – all of them. Not a single person who said they used Twitter responded in the affirmative to the question of whether they would pay for the privilege to tweet. Read on for more stats from this robust survey and what they mean.

Nearly half – 49 percent – of those polled said they used Twitter. Twitter’s popularity is tied to the growing popularity of the internet in general. However, the fact that not a single respondent would pay to use Twitter should it begin charging illustrates the fact that the internet is still an ambiguous entity when it comes to creating a profitable business. Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism comments on what this means:

“Such an extreme finding that produced a zero response underscores the difficulty of getting Internet users to pay for anything that they already receive for free. Twitter has no plans to charge its users, but this result illustrates, beyond any doubt, the tremendous problem of transforming free users into paying users.”

This raises the question of how ventures can realistically expect to make money online. Advertising is the go-to method, but with 50 percent of respondents saying they would never click on an ad and 70 percent finding them “annoying”, it is apparent that businesses will have a hard time positioning advertisements that will be of value to visitors.

Other statistics about the usage patterns of Americans online are interesting as well. 82 percent of Americans go online regularly, spending 19 hours a week, on average, surfing the web. However, the report notes that there is a low adoption rate of new media for older generations – 79 percent of internet users do not blog and 85 percent know little or nothing about making phone calls online, the vast majority of whom are above 24. Those under 24 use these and other new services regularly.

The Center for the Digital Future report has some bad news for offline retailers, but some great news for those selling goods online. 65 percent of adult internet users make purchases online, and buy and average of 35.2 goods and services each year. However, 61 percent of all internet users say that purchasing things online reduces their likelihood of making a purchase offline. The most popular items that people buy online are books (59 percent), clothes (59 percent) and gifts (55 percent), with just 40 percent paying for games, software or virtual goods.

This survey points to two trends regarding monetizing online: people will purchase tangible goods on the internet, but they are reluctant to pay for intangible services they have been getting for free. Services like Twitter are intangible, and have been free for so long, that they would lose quite a number of users if they switched to a paid model. However, while people are more willing to buy books and other items online, virtual goods are making some headway: the 40 percent that is willing to pay for them is a promising number.

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