What can comms professionals learns from Reuters’s Digital News Report?

By August 22, 2023No Comments

Every year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University releases its Digital News Report. Surfacing insights based on a YouGov survey of more than 90,000 consumers of online news in 46 markets, it’s both the most wide-ranging and the most granular snapshot we have of changing patterns in how people consume news online.

It’s also annual, which means we can track this evolution in as close to real time as is useful. This means it’s a hugely useful resource for comms professionals looking to find audiences alongside hard news, and we highly recommend checking out the full report – all 160 pages.

If you’re a strapped for time, here are some of this year’s key insights:

Trust in news is falling

40% of everyone surveyed said they trusted the news, down 2% on 2022 (and further down on the boost in trust in the media during the height of the coronavirus pandemic).

Overall, the long-term trend doesn’t reflect positive public feeling toward the media: in the UK 51% of people trusted the news in 2015, but this year only 33% felt the same way. This trend is mirrored in most major markets, with Greece coming bottom at only 19%.

People don’t like algorithms, and like journalists less

Whether the platform is search or social, there is scepticism toward algorithmically selected content as a news: less than a third of respondents (30%) felt favourably toward the idea of stories selected for them based on what their friends read, down 6% on 2016.

However – interestingly – they preferred news presented this way to that selected by editors or journalists, which only 27% said they favoured.

Podcasting is booming (ish)

Just over a third of global survey respondents (34%) listen to at least one podcast a month, and they’re particularly popular among younger and/or university graduates.

However, only 12% overall access a podcast on news and current affairs monthly. Perhaps surprisingly, this number falls to 7% for podcasts on sport.

People avoid bad news

Perhaps reflecting several years of grisly headlines, 36% of people say they sometimes or often actively try to avoid the news, up from 29% in 2017 (but down 2% on last year).

This often reflects local political politicisation and bitter atmospheres, with 43% of Americans avoiding national politics compared to 23% of Fins, but can also be an indication of proximity to darker events: 75% of Fins avoid news about the war in Ukraine, compared to 32% of Americans.

If we divide the news into topics, news avoidance often falls into predictable partisan patterns: 64% of Americans who self-describe as right-wing avoid news on climate change and the environment, compared to 12% of respondents on the left.

The cost of living crisis is hitting news consumption

In a grim finding for publishers, 39% of survey respondents said they had either cancelled or renegotiated subscriptions in the past year, with the US (47%) far ahead of the UK (32%). Only 17% of people in the top 20 global media markets said they paid for any news online at all this year: no move on the figure for 2022.

As we said above, we really do recommend reading the full report, even if its findings are pretty sobering. You can find it here:

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