The $1,400 Question: Consumers Expect to Pay Much More Without Free Ad-Supported Content & Services

September 28, 2020

Americans believe popular digital offerings like news, sports, and email would cost $1,404/year without funding from advertising, up more than $200 in last four years.

Americans are struggling to recover from the worst economic collapse in modern times, with tens of millions out of work, struggling to pay their bills, or reducing household expenses to make ends meet.

As bad as the financial situation is today, a new survey conducted by the DAA shows it could get worse, as respondents believed they would face significant new costs without the advertising-based financial model that funds popular digital content and services like news, entertainment, sports, and email.

According to the survey, Americans place a value of more than $1,400 per year on the array of free digital content, services, and apps that are currently funded by advertising. Respondents said those ad-supported content and services are worth $1,404 annually, an increase of $206.64 – or 17 percent – over the $1,197 that respondents assigned in value to such services in a similar survey in 2016.

The survey results highlight the vital work of the DAA in protecting the advertising model that helps fund those services through our independently enforced self-regulatory program and easy-to-use choice tools for consumers. The success of those efforts helps save families real money by reducing the cost for access to vital information, tools, and content, as paying an additional $1,400 per year is not a viable option for most Americans.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • The vast majority (85 percent) say they would reduce their online and mobile activities if they had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the content and services they currently get for free.
  • Four in five respondents (80 percent) say they would be more likely to purchase a mobile phone offering more free apps over a comparable phone with fewer free apps.
  • Nearly all the respondents (93 percent) say free Internet content like news, weather, email, and blogs is very or somewhat important to them.
  • A large majority (84 percent) say they prefer the current ad-supported Internet where most content and services are free over a paid Internet with no advertising.
  • A similarly large percent of respondents (88 percent) said they have found advertising useful in finding new products, researching a potential purchase, or assisting with the shopping process.

These findings underscore the importance of protecting the current ad-supported ecosystem and the critical role of self-regulatory programs like the DAA in setting consistent and enforceable standards across that system. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners across digital advertising to strengthen, protect, and improve that system, so consumers can continue to benefit from these important free and low-cost services.

Methodology: The survey was conducted via SurveyMonkey among 1,080 US adults from September 16-17, 2020. Based on a confidence interval of 95 percent, the margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percent.

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