Today, we’ve published our annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report.
Covering 38 markets globally across 6 continents (with the addition of South Africa this year), it is our biggest report ever.
It is an incredibly rich and varied picture of a rich and varied media environment, with marked country-to-country differences, which you can explore in the PDF of the main report (found here) or by diving into the data and interactives on the report website here.
Still, I think there are some key, globally-relevant findings from across the report that lead author Nic Newman, Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, and all our many country partners have produced.
FIRST, we find only a small increase in the overall numbers paying for any online news, and even in countries with higher levels of payment, the vast majority only have ONE online subscription – suggesting that ‘winner takes all’ dynamics are likely to be important. More and more publishers are chasing subscribers from the same highly educated, more affluent, news-loving minority of people.
SECOND, the role of platforms continue to evolve – in many countries, people are spending less time with Facebook and more time with WhatsApp, Instagram, and YouTube than this time last year. Few users are abandoning Facebook entirely, though, and it remains by far the most important social network for news. Voice activated speakers are spreading quickly, but with very limited use for news so far.
THIRD, the move to messaging applications and groups is present everywhere but with very significant country difference — WhatsApp has become a primary network for discussing and sharing news in non-Western countries like Brazil (53%) Malaysia (50%), and South Africa (49%) (much less widely used for news in many Western countries). Facebook Groups for discussing news and politics have become popular in Turkey (29%) and Brazil (22%) (but again much less used in Western countries such as Canada (7%) or Australia (7%)).
FOURTH, the majority of our respondents across 38 markets worry about what is real and fake on the internet, and over a quarter (26%) say they have started relying on more ‘reputable’ sources of news as a result, plus a quarter (24%) saying they had stopped using sources that had a dubious reputation in the last year. While this will help some publishers, the often low trust in news overall – and in many individual brands – underlines this is not necessarily a development that will help everyone in the industry.
FIFTH, while people are demonstrating (by paying attention and by paying) that they find some journalism valuable, it is also clear that people are not impressed by much of what they come across, and the issues go well beyond trust. While almost two-thirds of our respondents say the media are good at keeping people up to date (62%), they are seen as less good at helping them understand the news (51%). And less than half (42%) think the media do a good job in holding rich and powerful people to account.
As always, all the underlying data is available for those interested in doing additional analysis, and we will work on further in-depth studies of these any many other issues, going beyond the main report in the months to come.
Thanks to everyone involved, at the RISJ, our country partners, and the 15 different funders making this possible.