Thanks to the burgeoning internet advertising market, charging for content is no longer the preferred business model for many UK-based online content providers.

According to Association of Online Publishers chairman Bill Murray: "While there remains a strong view from consumers that web content must be free, the healthy online ad market has probably convinced most publishers that there is little point in ... trying to convert customers to paying."

Murray says that only 37% of AOP members now charge for site content compared with 63% last year. Nonetheless, those that do charge report it collectively earned them in excess of £5 million ($8.75m; €7.13m) in 2005.

It a recent survey of members - whose number includes IPC Media, BSkyB, Reuters, Haymarket Publishing, the BBC,, The Economist Group, Guardian Unlimited and Which? - it emerged that display advertising is the main revenue source, accounting for 41% of all members' income.

Over the past two years, the proportion of AOP members saying they are unlikely to start charging for online content has risen from 18% to 43%.

However, this tendency is less marked in the business-to-business sector. Opines Murray: "I suspect that within the B2B market and with some of the more interactive, high-value consumer content enabled by broadband, we will see long-term growth in the number of publishers charging for the best content."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff