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Digital news is a mixed media experience

September 8, 2017 | By Rande Price, Research Director—DCN @Randeloo

Most adults today use a combination of different sources and platforms to get their news reports the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017. The global report is based on a survey of more than 70,000 people in 36 markets, with added qualitative research in many of the countries. Social media is a big part of this media mix, as are TV, websites and apps. In fact, two-thirds of social media news users in the United States also watch television news (67%) and two-thirds also visit mainstream websites or apps (66%). Further, only a quarter (24%) of the respondents think social media does a good job in separating fact from fiction, compared to 40% for the news media.

News brands struggle with their branding on distributed and social platforms. Reuters tracked over 2,000 respondents in the UK to see if they could remember their path to a news story found on Facebook, Google, or others. Only 37% of respondents could recall the name of the news brand when coming from search and 47% when coming from social.

Trust Issues

Trust in the news media varies greatly across countries. According to the report, less than half the population (43%) trust the news media. Trust in the news is highest in Finland (62%) and lowest in Greece and South Korea (23% each). There appears to be a strong correlation between consumer distrust in the media and perceived political bias, especially in countries with high political polarity like the U.S where trust in the news media registers at 38%.

The news also appears to be impacting the consumers’ emotional psyche. Close to a third of respondents (29%) state they often or sometimes avoid the news. Many say the news negatively impacts their mood and heightens concern over their inability to rely on the news to be true.

Additional findings:
  • Outside the U.S. and UK, growth in social media for news is leveling off many markets. In its place, messaging apps that are more private and do not algorithmically filter content are gaining in popularity.
  • Mobile access for news is increasing in many countries. Mobile news notifications have grown significantly in the last year, especially in the US (+8 percentage points), South Korea (+7), and Australia (+4). This has many news publishers working with third party distribution like Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP for quick efficiencies for content loading on mobile devices.
  • Mobile news aggregators show usage growth, notably Apple News, and Snapchat Discover for younger audiences. Both have doubled YoY usage with their target audience.
  • Smartphones are now as important for news inside the home as outside with 46% of consumers using their smartphones to access news in bed.
  • Voice-activated digital assistants like the Amazon Echo are emerging as a new platform for news, outpacing smart watches in the US and UK.
  • Overall, YoY growth of digital news subscriptions across all demos, especially among those under 35 years old. Specifically, online news subscriptions in the U.S. grew from 9 to 16% subscriptions. Across all countries, approximately one in ten consumers (13%) pay for online news.
  • Ad-blocking growth has leveled off on desktop at 21% overall and is only 7% on smartphones. Interestingly, in some countries, more than half state they have temporarily disabled their ad-blocker for news in countries like Poland and Denmark (57% each) and the United States (52%).
Add Value

Melissa Bell, Publisher and co-founder, Vox Media comments on this analysis “if we work to rebuild trust with our audiences, we may find our way to more stable, significant businesses.” She’s identify a few key questions for publishers to think about and address as they continue to provide quality news content across platforms.

  • What is currently not being offered to audiences? How can content appear essential to them?
  • Can the sense of community be recreated for audiences around the country – or the world?
  • How do publishers help audiences seek knowledge instead of simply publishing information?
  • How can publishers help audiences feel less anxious with today’s news content?

Importantly, publishers need to solve problems for their audiences. Digital news publishers’ focus on quality, transparency, and accountability will allow audience trust and engagement to follow.

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