December 30, 2010, 2:55 PM

65% of online consumers have bought digital content on the web

Music, software and apps are the most popular purchases.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

A new study from Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that 65% of web users have paid to download or access some kind of online content.

The survey finds digital music and software are the most popular online digital buys, each with 33% of online consumers reporting purchasing those goods. Apps for smartphones or tablet computers came in third with 21% and digital games fourth at 19%. The least popular digital buy is access to web sites such as online dating services at 5% and access to adult content at 2%. Pew polled 755 Internet users from late October to early November for the study.

In addition to the options listed, 6% say they have paid for another kind of content not mentioned in the list of 15 optional answers.

“What was really surprising was that the percentage of Internet users purchasing online content is nearly the same as those purchasing other products and services, such as books and travel,” says Jim Jansen, author of the report. “Additionally, the range of online content that Internet users purchase is quite varied.”

Pew Internet also found the majority of web users pay for subscription services (23%), versus downloading an individual file (16%), or accessing streaming content (8%).

Men are more likely than women to pay to access software (40% for men compared with 26% for women), although software is the only category with a major difference between male and female buyers, the poll finds. Additionally, Internet users who have higher household incomes are more likely to pay for various kinds of content than those who live in lower-income households, Pew reports. For example, in the popular music category, 29% of online consumers with household incomes between $30,000 and $49,000 say they have paid for online music, compared with 43% of those with household incomes of $75,000 or more. The typical user reporting the dollar amount spent on online content spends $10 per month.


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