Digital News Report 2018: there is hope for the news industry

posted on 14 June, 2018   (public)

Use of social media for news overtaken by messaging apps

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has published on 14 June 2018 its seventh annual edition of the Digital News Report. The report focuses on the issues of trust and misinformation, new online business models, the impact of changing Facebook algorithms and the rise of new platforms and messaging apps.

This year's report reveals new insights about digital news consumption based on a YouGov survey of over 74,000 online news consumers in 37 countries including the US and UK, along with additional qualitative research, which together make it the most comprehensive ongoing comparative study of news consumption in the world. Europe remains a key focus with 25 countries including Bulgaria for the first time, but the report also covers six markets in Asia along with four Latin American countries and the United States and Canada.

The 2018 edition has been released thanks to partnerships with, inter alia, the British Ofcom, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Dutch Commissariaat voor de Media.

Some of the most important findings from the 2018 edition are as follows:

  • Social media: 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 in the UK and France. Almost all of this is due to a specific decline in the discovery, posting, and sharing of news in Facebook.
  • Messaging apps: people are more and more reluctant to share and post openly about contentious subjects and are increasingly choosing more private space for this purpose. WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of the sample of online users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).
  • Trust: consumer trust in news remains worryingly low in most countries, often linked to high levels of media polarisation, and the perception of undue political influence. 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.
  • Disinformation: over half (54%) agree or strongly agree that they are concerned about what is real and fake on the Internet. This is highest in countries like Brazil (85%), Spain (69%), and the United States (64%) where polarised political situations combine with high social media use. It is lowest in Germany (37%) and the Netherlands (30%) where recent elections were largely untroubled by concerns over fake content.
  • News literacy: for the first time, the report has measured news literacy and how it influences trust and the ability to spot misinformation. It reveals that those with higher levels of news literacy tend to prefer newspaper brands over TV, and use social media for news very differently from the wider population. They are also more cautious about interventions by governments to deal with misinformation.
  • Paying for online news: 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). All these countries have a small number of publishers, the majority of whom are relentlessly pursuing a variety of paywall strategies. But in more complex and fragmented markets, there are still many publishers who offer online news for free.
  • Television as news source: television remains a critical source of news for many – but declines in annual audience continue to raise new questions about the future role of public broadcasters and their ability to attract the next generation of viewers.
  • Podcasts: podcasts are becoming popular across the world due to better content and easier distribution. They are almost twice as popular in the United States (33%) as they are in the UK (18%). Young people are far more likely to use podcasts than listen to speech radio.

The report makes a noteworthy highlight on the reverse of social media news consumption. The seven previous reports have tracked the key sources for news across major countries and have described a picture of relentless growth in the use of social media for news. Now, in many countries, growth has stopped or gone into reverse.

Additional EPRA Background: Note that "News in the digital age" was the focus of an annual EPRA plenary session in 2017, the main deliverable of which was a background comparative paper on the Role of Regulators when implementing Accuracy, Objectivity and Impartiality in practice.

Source: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism