papersWhen Rupert Murdoch announced in August that readers of News International’s newspaper websites would have to pay to read their content, I was pretty sceptical as to how many people would hand over a monthly fee for the privilege of reading content they previously had free.

Several pieces of research carried out since to find out whether or not people will pay for online news also paint an uncertain picture with vastly varying results. One recent poll suggested that as many as 48% of British and American consumers would be willing to pay a few pounds a month, while another, published today, claims 80% of people wouldn’t pay.

Of course, publishers have to do something to offset their decline in print circulation. News International’s controversial decision to cut retailers’ margins this week is just one way to claw back money.

While retailers have no control over cuts in their margins, consumers do have a choice over what they read, and although it will be cheaper to buy a monthly subscription to a news website than buy a newspaper every day, this is a risky move for the publisher and it could lose readers altogether.

It may be a little too optimistic, but for the sake of retailers, I hope it pushes people back into their shops to buy a copy instead.