Just 1 in 7 South Koreans have paid for online news content: Report

A researcher explained that the low rate is partly due to the strong presence of platforms delivering online news content.

Shim Woo-hyun

Shim Woo-hyun

The Korea Herald



June 23, 2022

SEOUL – Only 14 percent of South Koreans paid for online news content last year, according to a recent report. The proportion of people who said they paid for news content, however, has been gradually increasing over the past years, the report added.

According to the 2022 Digital News Report, published by Reuters Institute, the proportion of survey respondents who had paid for online news content in South Korea last year increased by 1 percentage point from the previous year.

The data, based on a YouGov survey of over 93,000 online news consumers in 46 markets around the world, also noted that the proportion of respondents who have used paid online news services in South Korea remained lower than the average of 16 percent, placing it 24th among the surveyed markets.

Markets at the top of the same list included Norway with 41 percent, followed by Sweden with 33 percent and Hong Kong with 22 percent. The US, Finland, Philippines and Belgium also occupied high-ranking positions.

Choi Jin-ho, a senior researcher at the Korea Press Foundation, who took part in the report, noted that many people in South Korea still tend to take free online news content for granted.

Choi explained that the low rate is partly due to the strong presence of platforms delivering online news content.

“Some news organizations have started to introduce digital subscriptions in the last year but worry about the dominant role of platforms,” the report said.

In South Korea, major online portals Naver and Daum aggregate multiple news sources via their websites and apps, and the majority of people consume online news content through those platforms.

Respondents who said they prefer to access news content on the platforms accounted for 69 percent, while only 5 percent of the respondents said they prefer to consume online news content on sites or applications directly operated by the media outlets — lowest among the surveyed 46 markets.

Some major news outlets are experimenting with new business models, including subscriptions, but they have “yet to produce tangible results,” the report added.

An encouraging aspect, according to the report, is that the proportion of people who pay for online news content in South Korea is gradually increasing, narrowing the gap with the US — a country that is widely considered to have well-established pay models for online news content.

The report’s data showed that the proportion of people who paid for online news content in the US reached 19 percent, while that of South Korea reached 14 percent, closing the gap to 5 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the report pointed out that only 30 percent of South Koreans trust the news in general, down by 2 percentage points from a year earlier. The most trusted media source was YTN, and consumer’s trust in broadcasters was higher than that of newspapers.

The report added news consumption via social media went up by 4 percentage points on-year, while the figures for TV and print media both went down by 2 percentage points.

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