Pay for online content? Improve quality first, say UAE consumers in Nielsen study

Published March 24th, 2010 - 01:36 GMT

Consumers in the UAE are reluctant to pay for online content unless its quality improves, according to a global survey by the Nielsen Company. An online study of 27,000 consumers across 54 countries found that 88 per cent of UAE respondents want content to stay free, and 66 per cent said that the quality of online information needs to improve significantly before providers can realistically charge for it.

According to the survey, UAE consumers will consider paying for online content in specific categories, especially film, books, music and games. And they are prepared to accept more advertising on the web to support the cost of improved online material.

Respondents elsewhere in the Middle East share a similar view to internet users in the UAE; 85 per cent of web users in Saudi Arabia say content should stay free, and just over half (51 per cent) believe that the quality of content needs to be significantly enhanced before it can be paid for.

In Egypt, 87 per cent of those interviewed want online material to remain freely available, and 54 per cent expect an improvement in its quality before parting with their money.

Sevil Ermin, Managing Director of Nielsen, UAE, said: “Nielsen’s latest global internet study provides valuable insights into how people’s relationship with the web is evolving, and the results will certainly influence the thinking of Middle East-based content providers.”

Ermin said: “Compared to many of their peers around the world, UAE consumers are more willing to buy professionally produced online content. But content that has been generated by fellow users, such as blogs and video, has far less appeal.”

The Nielsen survey found that a fifth of UAE internet users had already paid for books online; 14 per cent had bought music; and 13 per cent had purchased movies via the web.

Asked what online content they would consider paying for in the future, more than half of UAE consumers said they were prepared to pay for books (56 per cent), movies (46 per cent) and professionally produced video, including current television shows (47 per cent).  Many consumers also indicated they would consider paying for magazines (40 per cent), games (39 per cent) and music (38 per cent).

Noticeably fewer consumers were prepared to pay for consumer-generated content such as blogs (13 per cent), video (21 per cent), and content on social communities or forums (27 per cent). Radio and podcasts also fared poorly in the study, with 18 per cent of consumers indicating they would consider paying for music radio, and only 17 per cent for news and talk radio.

More than four in five UAE respondents believe that a subscription to a newspaper, magazine, radio or TV channel should allow them free access to content on corresponding online services. In the survey, 80 per cent said they would rather search the web for free content than pay for what they need online.

UAE consumers are undecided about whether the quality of online content will suffer if it remains free; 40 per cent of respondents think it will, 27 per cent disagree, and more than a third don’t know. But more than two-thirds concur that once bought, online content should be theirs to copy and share as they choose.

How to buy online content would appear to be a debate in itself, with a number of options being put forward by internet companies. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the UAE would prefer to pay for specific items than subscribe to an entire website, according to the Nielsen study. Half of those interviewed said that more convenient payment methods would also make them more likely to buy online.

Nielsen’s Ermin said: “Consumers appear to be stressing value and convenience in their attitudes towards commercial transactions online, and preferences are still quite fragmented. Online content providers clearly need to focus on offering more choice than less in their pursuit of internet users willing to pay for their services.”

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