The 2022 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute paints a gloomy picture of the state of news.
Data captured from six continents suggests that a depressing news agenda dominated by stories such as war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis is causing many people to turn away from important stories. Overall, trust and interest in news has fallen.
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On a more positive note, the report finds that some media organisations are successfully building an audience or convincing people to pay for news. Many have also seen revenue grow.
Much of the industry is however, still struggling to overcome the massive transformation wrought on publishers in the last decade, finds the report. The cost of living crisis and economic strains could squeeze subscription payers and hit advertising revenues too.
There are many findings in the report (covered in depth by Press Gazette here), which is based on a survey of over 93,000 adults in 46 countries. Below, Press Gazette highlights six charts from the report that summarise its key findings about the state of news in 2022.
Growth in willingness to pay for online news is stagnating
Less than a fifth of people (17%) paid for online news in the last year– no change from the 2021 Digital News Report. While a handful of mostly upmarket newsbrands have seen strong growth in digital subscriptions, convincing younger people in particular to pay for news remains a challenge. Squeezed household incomes as a result of the cost of living crisis is a further threat to publishers dependent on this revenue stream.
Norway tops the table with 41% of respondents saying they paid for news in the last year, followed by Sweden (33%), Finland (19%) and the United States (19%). Long-term trends suggest however, that growth in established markets is slowing. The UK comes near the bottom with 9% of people paying for news with the picture for local outlets even more difficult. Just five percent of UK subscribers paid for local news.
Interest in news has fallen while many people are switching off altogether
Across the world, interest in news has fallen sharply from 63% of people in 2017 who said they were very or extremely interested in news to 51% in 2022. The UK is one of several countries where interest in news has been falling for several years. In the US news interest has only recently started to fall after remaining high during the Trump years.
Along with less interest in news, a growing number of people are actively turning away from news. The biggest group of respondents (43%) said there is too much coverage of politics and Covid-19 while 36% said that the news has a negative effect on how they feel. In the UK, news avoidance has doubled from 24% to 46% people since 2017.
Nic Newman, report lead author said: "These findings will be particularly challenging for the news industry. Subjects that journalists consider most important, such as political crises, international conflicts, global pandemics, and climate catastrophes, seem to be precisely the ones that are turning some people away from news."
Young people turn to TikTok and away from direct connections with newsbrands
While Facebook remains the dominant social network for news across 12 countries analysed, visual platforms have started to eat into its lead. Since 2016 Facebook’s popularity as a news source has fallen 12 percentage points while video platform TikTok was the fastest growing in this year’s survey, particularly among young people. Forty percent of 18–24s reported using TikTok with 15% saying they used it for news. Twitter, while it remains a favourite of journalists, has seen it user base stagnate.
On a global level, social media overtook news websites and apps as the main way that people access news (28% vs 23%), although there are big differences between markets. UK audiences are among those that retain strong direct connections with newsbrands. Nevertheless, even the UK does not buck the trend among Gen Z - people aged 18–24 in the UK are now much less likely to use a news website or app.
"This is another illustration that this youngest generation, which has grown up with social media, is not just different but is more different than the one that came before," said the report.
Trust in news has fallen around the world
While trust levels are above pre-pandemic levels, they fell this year in almost half of the countries surveyed. Only seven countries saw an increase in the number of people that trusted the news.
News consumers are most likely to trust the news in Finland (69%), while the USA is at the bottom of the list (26%). Lack of appreciation of the value of news and perception of bias were the main reasons for low levels of faith in journalism. In several countries including the UK, many people (45%) felt that news organisations put their own commercial or political interests ahead of what’s best for society.
Trust in the BBC declines sharply
While the BBC remains the most-accessed publisher online, on TV and on radio in the UK, trust in the public broadcaster has fallen sharply since 2018.
In the UK as in other northern and western European countries, Canada and Australia public service broadcasters play an important role in engendering trust in news more generally. The number of people who said they trusted the BBC however, has fallen from 75% to 55% between 2018 and 2022 - the biggest drop of any public broadcaster in the data. The number of people saying they did not trust the BBC similarly rose from 11% to 26%. Most critics of the BBC, said the report, came from the political right and echoed the Conservative government’s criticism that the BBC is allegedly anti-Brexit and has a liberal bias.
Other things from the Reuters Digital News Report you might have missed….
- UK news consumers are among those least likely to hand over their data: With the demise of third-party cookies coming, first-party data collection is increasingly important for publishers. Many readers are however, reluctant to hand over their details to news sites. Just 16% of UK respondents said they had shared their personal details with publishers in the last year.
- News consumers are split on whether journalists should use their social media profiles to just report the news or to also share their personal opinions. Over half (55%) of UK respondents said journalists should just stick to just reporting the news on their social media profiles, while 33% were happy to read journalists’ own views as well.
- Few people are willing to pay for subscriptions to individual journalists, especially when compared with established news brands. In the US where the market for individual writers on platforms such as Substack is more established, still only 7% of news subscribers paid for journalist emails. Things could however, change over time, finds the report as younger respondents in the US were more likely to be receiving emails from solo journalists.
- Misinformation is still a concern especially for people who mostly use social media for news. There was little change in how people in various countries perceive the threat of misinformation. Almost three-quarters of people in Kenya and Nigeria (72%) said they are worried about misinformation compared to just 32% in Germany. Sixty-one percent of people who mostly use social media for news worried about being able to identify false content, compared to 54% of people overall.
- While traditional media such as TV and radio are in sharp decline, when it comes to major crises such as the Ukraine war, people turn back to their TVs. In all five countries, including the UK, that were part of a follow-up survey after the start of the Ukraine war, television topped the list as the news source to which most attention was paid.
- The UK has a higher level of audience polarisation than many countries. Although the BBC occupies an important place in the centre, the Guardian's audience was identified as more strongly left leaning while Daily Mail readers were more strongly right-leaning. The Mirror and Times’ audiences have however, moved somewhat closer to the centre in recent years.
- Interest in climate change news is higher in countries in Latin America, southern Europe and Asia than in northern and western Europe. Interest in climate change is lower in more politically polarised countries such as the US with lack of right-wing interest in the issue driving down overall interest.