This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report contains some signs of hope for the news industry. According to the report, “Change is in the air with many media companies shifting models towards higher quality content and more emphasis on reader payment.” However, as the report points out, these emerging trends are fragile, unevenly distributed, and are emerging in the wake of many years of digital disruption, which has undermined both consumer and publisher confidence.
Based on a YouGov survey conducted with 74,000 people in 37 countries, this is the seventh in an annual series of reports that track the transition of the news industry towards an increasingly digital and multi-platform future. Among the many challenges highlighted in the report is a low level of trust in the media in most countries and concerns about fake news. The business side continues to struggle despite a rise in reader revenue, as it has failed to offset continued declines in print and digital advertising revenue.
Here are 6 key takeaways from Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018:
- The use of social media for news has started to fall in a number of key markets after years of continuous growth. Usage is down 6% in the United States and is also down in the UK and France.
- Globally, the use of messaging apps for news is on the rise. WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of the sampled users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).
- Across all countries, the average level of trust in the news in general remains relatively stable at 44%, with just over half (51%) agreeing that they trust the news media they themselves use most of the time.
- By contrast, 34% of respondents say they trust news they find via search and fewer than a quarter (23%) say they trust the news they find in social media.
- Last year’s significant increase in subscription in the United States (the “Trump Bump”) has been maintained. The average number of people paying for online news has edged up in many countries, with significant increases coming from Norway (+4 percentage points), Sweden (+6), and Finland (+4).
- Privacy concerns have reignited the growth in ad-blocking software. More than a quarter of consumers now block on any device (27%). More than four in ten (42%) now use blockers in Greece (+6) with significant increases in Germany (+5) and the United States (+4).
The report concludes that the many changes this year serve as a reminder that things that once seemed certain (such as the importance of Facebook and the online advertising model) can quickly shift. The entire space continues to rapidly evolve, with technologies like voice-activated interfaces and artificial intelligence are on the rise, which will bring new opportunities as well as challenges. While the future of news remains uncertain, the report does provide hope that quality content will be increasingly rewarded in the future.