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June 14, 2019 | Shaun Bremner

Key Takeaways from Reuters Digital News Report 2019

The highly anticipated Reuters Institute – Digital News Report was released last week. As always it is packed full of actionable insights gathered from 75,000 people in 38 markets across 6 continents. We have highlighted the key findings from the 156-page report that can help with your current and future digital strategy…

Paying for News

Despite their best efforts, the report has found that there has only been a small increase in readers who pay for online news. Many publishers have launched paid-for strategies in an attempt to build a habitual paying relationship with their readers, ultimately moving towards ongoing payments and subscriptions. This is proving very difficult for smaller publishers in more competitive markets who are trying to create longer relationships via multiple touchpoints.

Interestingly, “16% now pay for online news in the United States up from 9% in 2016, 27% (+1pp) in Sweden and 34% (+4pp) in Norway but these countries remain the exception.”

Therefore, although more publishers are putting up paywalls, growth has still been limited mainly to the big countries and more established publishers. This can be clearly seen in the report as it discovered for all US digital-only subscriptions, half of those went to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

It is also worth noting, even in countries that have higher propensity to pay, the majority of readers still only pay for one source of online news.

Mobile first

No surprises here but the report reconfirmed the shift towards smartphone consumption being the number one source for news is continuing. For the past few years, smartphone usage has steadily increased but now two thirds (66%) are now using the device to access news weekly. A large amount of this comes from news aggregators such as Apple News, which in the US reaches “more iPhone users (27%) than the Washington Post (23%).”

The rise of mobile usages for news has been at the detriment of the desktop. This has dropped dramatically as the main device for news, dropping from 71% in 2013 to just 28% today. Readers are still using computers to access news, but it is no longer their preferred device. Mobile now takes 49% of the consumption with tablet remaining steady. Therefore, this has spurred greater importance for a mobile-first strategy.

Trust in News

Trust in the news has always been a key talking point within the Reuters Digital Report, with the industry seeing an overall 2% dip in trust in news across all territories this year. Fake news and misinformation continue to be a major issue despite publishers trying to rebuild public confidence.

In Brazil, 85% agree with a statement that they are worried about what is real and fake on the internet. The concern is also high in the UK (70%) and the US (67%), but much lower in Germany (38%) and the Netherlands (31%).

This is obviously a significant talking point across Europe and even more prominent in the UK due to BREXIT. This is having a huge impact with 71% of UK audiences turning away from BREXIT related news because of an overload.  News organisations are having to radically redefine their values and approaches to audiences to rebuild relationships with readers.

Other Noteworthy Findings

Figuring out voiceVoice-activated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow rapidly. Usage for any purpose has risen from 9% to 12% in the United States, from 7% to 14% in the UK, from 5% to 11% in Canada, and from 4% to 8% in Australia. Despite this, we find that usage for news remains low in all markets. Figuring out how to utilise voice for news is still an issue publisher are trying to figure out.

Rise of Podcasts – More than a third of our combined sample (36%) say they have consumed at least one podcast over the last month but this rises to half (50%) for those under 35. This could be a great way of targetting a younger audience as the report found “over half of under 35s have used a podcast monthly compared with less than a fifth of over 55s.”

Social communication – WhatsApp and over private messaging apps continue to grow everywhere. They are quickly becoming the primary network for sharing and debating news in non-Western countries like Brazil (53%) Malaysia (50%), and South Africa (49%).

Keep an eye out for future posts on the blog as we continue to analyse the report. You can download the full Reuters Institute Digital News Report here.

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