As a younger demographic begins consuming news, the gateway to how readers access that news — and how often they do it — is changing. That’s just one of the findings of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022, which co-author Kirsten Eddy presented during INMA’s Webinar on Wednesday.
Eddy, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, shared some of the global trends their research uncovered and talked about what it means for news publishers.
The survey, conducted online in January and February 2022, covered 46 markets on six continents, with some 93,000 people responding. This is the 11th year Reuters has conducted the survey, which Eddy said provided them with 10 years of data that allowed them to “see some of the structural changes that have taken place in terms of how and where people are consuming different sources of news on a regular basis.”
In the United States, for example, online use has flattened over the past 10 years, while TV news consumption has fallen from 72% in 2013 to just 48% in 2022. Eddy said that reflects the younger demographic’s interest: “We largely see that that’s the younger people turning away from TV.”
Concurrently, social media has risen as a news source while print also has continued a long decline.
But not everyone is turning to newspapers, television, or online sources these days. The category of “none of these” — indicating the proportion of people who said they had not consumed any of those news sources in the past week — has grown significantly in the United States, from just 3% in 2013 to 15% this year.
And Germany — which has a strong traditional media presence — is also seeing a dramatic decline in TV, print, and radio news. For the first time, online consumption has overtaken TV news, and while the “none of these” response is not as large as in the United States, it has risen from 1% in 2013 to 5% today.
“The interest in news is much more stable in most of the Nordic countries, whereas in many others we continue to see interest decline,” Eddy said.
The rise of news avoidance
In addition to the people who are not consuming any news, the survey found significant growth in the number of people who are selectively avoiding the news. Globally, about 38% of respondents said they often or sometimes avoid the news, which is up from 29% in 2019.
“In particular, avoidance has doubled in Brazil and almost doubled in the U.K. since 2017, and we also see it rise in a number of European countries as well.”
She said the top reasons cited for avoiding the news are:
- Too much political and COVID-19 coverage (43%).
- News has a negative effect on their mood (36%).
- They believe the news is untrustworthy or biased (29%).
- They are “worn out” by the amount of news (29%).
- It leads to arguments (17%).
- There’s nothing they can do with the information (16%).
Trust in media
Trustworthiness was a recurring theme, as trust is down in almost half the markets surveyed and up in just seven.
In Finland, trust is up and it remains the market that has the most trust in the media, with 69% saying they trust most of the news most of the time. That’s a big gap from the United States, where trust in the media continues to drop and just 26% said they felt they could trust the news most of the time — the same proportion as Slovakia.
Eddy said trust directly affects how much information users are willing to give up. Most people are reluctant to give up their personal information, and overall 32% of the respondents don’t trust news Web sites to use that information responsibly. Finland again has the highest level of trust, with 49% believing media companies will use the data responsibly, while the United States has the lowest level of trust at just 18%.
That’s important to address because of the link between trust and data registration.
“It’s really important for us to consider how people’s unwillingness to register their data isn’t just a technical problem; it’s really tied to these deeper issues of trust. We see a clear link between overall trust in news and people’s willingness to trust publishers with their data.”
That makes trust-building imperative, she said, “not only for those who are pursuing subscription models but for any publisher who is looking to engage and connect with audiences more deeply.”
Reaching younger users
As younger users consume news, social media has become a significant gateway. The networks preferred by 18- to 24-year-old users have changed, with Facebook use dropping while WhatsApp and Instagram see their numbers continue rising. TikTok, which only launched in 2019, has been embraced by younger users and is becoming the fastest-growing network for news. Reuters found that 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds use TikTok and 15% of them use it for news.
“We see TikTok along with Telegram widely used — most recently in the Ukraine war,” she said, showing an example of a Ukrainian teenager who used a series of TikTok posts to document her flight into exile and separation from her family.
“We hear people talking about its addictiveness and presentation excelling — even if it lacks in trustworthiness,” Eddy said. “But it’s also not universally liked; not all young people are TikTokkers, so it’s not a silver bullet for news organisations.”
While many people prefer to watch the news instead of reading it, that preference is not universal. For example, in the Philippines, YouTube is a preferred vehicle for news consumption amongst 57% of users, while in Denmark, only 7% of users receive their news that way. Not surprisingly, older readers are more likely to prefer reading the news vs. watching it.
However, podcasting has created a new area of interest for users, with 80% of publishers saying they were putting more resources into podcasts and other digital audio this year.
“Podcast growth this year has resumed in a number of countries,” Eddy said. In 20 markets, about one-third of the population is accessing podcasts on a monthly basis, up from the past year and gaining a significant amount of traction in several countries, including Ireland, Sweden, and the U.K.
If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.