The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report, published annually, is an important landmark for the news publishing industry. Published annually, it analyses the global news publishing scenario to illuminate evolving trends in this segment. Its 2023 edition analyses 24 markets in Europe, 11 in Asia, 5 in South America, and 3 in Africa and North America stating conclusively that the future of news media is overwhelmingly in favour of digital with a capital D.
It means that the rapid-fire changes we have seen in this industry over the past two decades are perhaps but a precursor to the fundamental shift that is currently underway. It will further transform the very nature of the work of journalists, editors, and everyone else in the news publishing value chain. We must rethink our possibilities and incorporate advanced technology as best as we can in order to go with the flow.
It also calls to attention legacy news media publishers and websites trying to retain the ‘old values’, so to speak, urging them to take a relook at their strategies.
As Prof. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director, Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism (RISJ), puts it in his foreword to the report, new coming-of-age generations are ‘embracing the more participatory, personable, and personalised options offered via platforms’. And, he informs us that this is to be a one-way change.
Prof. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director, Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism (RISJ)
In a nutshell according to him, the public is eschewing direct discovery and voting with its attention and money for digital media.
Here’s a list of some of the top findings of the report, as relevant to news media publishers operating within the Indian sub-continent:
COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have accelerated the shift towards digital, mobile and platform-driven access to news. Across all markets, social media now accounts for 30% of access to news, striding ahead of direct access via news websites or apps at 22%.
The percentage of people starting their news journey with a particular news website or app is seeing a dramatic downward trend (down 10 percentage points since 2018). Most audiences now access news via alternate routes such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators.
There is a perceptible divide in how audiences consume news across different platforms. Users on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat prefer to follow celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities for news in contrast to Facebook and Twitter, where journalists and editors are under the spotlight.
While news consumers have declining levels of trust in the way that algorithms select the news for them, they still slightly prefer this to editors selecting the news for them – indicating a point of deliberating for the news media industry as a whole.
Only around one-fifth of users are active participators in online news. This group also tends to be male, better educated, and more partisan in their political views. These numbers coincide with the drop in the people’s trust in news overall. However, given the scenario, public news media services still enjoy the highest levels of trust overall.
The sharp decline in traditional news media usage is not translating into an upside for new-age media consumption as overall interest in news itself is on a decline.
A majority of consumers still prefer to read their news over watching videos or listening to podcasts.
Up next, the impact of these findings on the business of news publishing.