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June 17, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:26am

US and Australia prove readers will subscribe to multiple news outlets

By Bron Maher

Most Americans who pay for news now subscribe to more than one outlet, according to a major report on trends in US news media.

But this year’s Reuters Digital News Report also reveals just three newsbrands suck up half of all US news subscriptions.

And although most Americans continue to report accessing the news at least once a day, that figure is falling – with many conservative Americans in particular avoiding news because of a lack of trust.

The report, put out annually by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, this year found the US and Australia were the only markets where, among those paying for news subscriptions, the median number of subs was two.

The authors said this “reflects the increased supply of differentiated paid news products in areas such as political opinion, local news and a range of specific niches – holding out hope that more people will ultimately pay for multiple titles.”

The research was conducted by Yougov via an online questionnaire distributed in January and February 2022. The US sample size was 2,036 and weighted to be representative of the population.

Some 56% of Americans who pay for news reported having subscriptions to two or more titles. The figure for Australia was 51%.

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The Reuters Institute reports the dual subscriptions paying Americans held are “often a national and local paper combination”, but “Second subscriptions in the United States include political and cultural magazines such as The Atlantic and The New Yorker, partisan digital outlets such as Blaze Media and Epoch Times, or passion-based titles such as The Athletic.”

Those who pay remain a minority, however: only 19% of American respondents reported paying for online news in the last year.

Some 29% of Americans said they registered for a news site in the last year, a figure a little above the average global figure of 28%. The US’ figure is likely hamstrung by another in the report: only 18% of Americans said they trusted news sites to use their data responsibly, the lowest figure in any of the 46 markets surveyed.

Among those who Americans do pay for news, 17% are under 30, 27% subscribe to local news, and 7% said they subscribe to foreign titles.

Despite this, the report also identified “a high degree of market concentration, with around half the subscriptions in the US going to The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal”.

Only one in four Americans trust the news

The authors also reported that two-thirds of American respondents said they access news in some form at least once a day, but that figure is down four percentage points from 2021’s survey. The share reporting being “extremely” or “very” interested in news fell for the second consecutive year, and now sits just under 50%. 

A little under one-fifth told Yougov they are not interested in news at all, and the proportion who said they trust the news fell three percentage points to 26%. The share who trust the newsbrands they themselves use fell to 41%.

The proportion of Americans who said they “sometimes or often actively avoid the news” was 42%. Among those on the right, 65% said they did so because it is “untrustworthy or biased” – versus only 20% on the left. 

Those lefties avoiding the news appear to be doing it primarily to spare their mental energies. Among left-leaning respondents, 57% said they did so because it “brings down [their] mood” and 41% because they are “worn out by the amount of news”. Those two figures compare against 54% and 29%, respectively, for conservatives.

Across both political wings, 49% of Americans who reported avoiding the news said they did so because it had a bad effect on their mood. That figure was the second highest of any market surveyed, behind only the UK at 55%.

Offline, 23% of Americans said they used Fox News at least weekly, making it the most used brand (though 28% said they access local television news as frequently).

Online, the most used brand was Yahoo! News, which was accessed in the past week by 16% of respondents. (The report also lists Yahoo! as one of only five brands more distrusted than they are trusted by Americans, alongside CNN, Fox, Huffpost and Buzzfeed.)

The New York Times, despite having the most successful news paywall in the world, was only used by 12% of American respondents in the week preceding the survey.

Most trusted news brand in America? The BBC?

The single most trusted brand in America was non-American BBC News, which netted both the highest trust score (46%) and the lowest “don’t trust” score (25%).

Most trusted news brands in America

US newsletter market is advanced

Also notable within the report was the US’ relatively advanced uptake of newsletters: 22% of American respondents accessed news via email in the week before the survey, compared with 17% across all 42 markets.

Some 10% of Americans said email was their main way of accessing digital news - a figure that rises to 15% for over-55s, meaning approximately as many get their online news through email as do via social media.

In contrast, email news appears to be performing far less well among American youth: only 3% of those aged 18-24 reported accessing news via email, with 41% of that cohort instead going via social media.

Despite popular attention on newsletter platform Substack, of those respondents reporting to access news via an email newsletter, only 18% said they were getting them from individual journalists. Just 7% of Americans paying for news said they pay for an individual journalist’s email news.

There was a generational split, however: among respondents already accessing news via an email newsletter, 31% of those under 35 were getting an individual journalist’s newsletter.

Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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