The Reuters Institute’s 2023 Digital News Report sheds light on the complex relationship between the public, news outlets and social media platforms.
As we navigate crisis after crisis, the demand for reliable and independent journalism is higher than ever.
However, the news industry struggles with weak audience engagement, low trust and an uncertain business environment.
Using data from 46 markets across six continents, the report paints a picture of an industry under pressure that is changing, innovating and adapting.
Key findings of the report include the following:
- Older social networks like Facebook are seeing a drop in engagement. TikTok and other video-based platforms are on the rise.
- There is a growing reliance on influencers or celebrities over traditional journalists.
- People are skeptical about news selection algorithms, although they say they prefer algorithmic news feeds.
- Public participation in online news has declined and trust in news sources continues to decline.
- Consumption of traditional media such as television and print media continues to decline.
- A significant number of people avoid reading the news altogether.
The report provides a comprehensive examination of the news industry, highlighting challenges and opportunities for publishers.
This article summarizes the key findings of the report.
Trust is shifting from journalists to influencers
The way people access news is changing.
The number of people who prefer to start their news journey with a website or app has declined, down 10 percentage points since 2018.
Younger audiences in particular are more likely to access news via social media, search engines or mobile aggregators than via news brand websites and apps.
Despite the pervasiveness of digital and social media, audience engagement and trust remain weak.
People are increasingly turning to celebrities, influencers and social media personalities for news rather than journalists.
mistrust of algorithms
Despite the preference for getting news from social media influencers, people are suspicious of algorithms used to curate news feeds.
Only 19% of respondents agreed that selecting news based on their friends’ consumption was an appropriate way to get news.
There is concern that more personalized messaging could result in people missing out on important information and challenging points of view.
When asked about selecting messages based on previous reading habits, the approval rating rose to 30%.
Those numbers were more positive than the approval rating for news picked by editors and journalists, which was 27%.
Participation in online news
The report finds a decline in participation in online news, with only about a fifth (22%) of respondents actively participating.
In the past, the Internet was seen as a platform for active participation, with users posting and commenting on news content.
Today, only 22% of the public participates actively, while 31% participates reactively – by reading, liking or sharing messages.
Meanwhile, 47% don’t bother with news at all.
Trust online news
Trust in news has declined: an average of 40% of respondents said they trust the news most of the time.
Public media brands enjoy high levels of trust, but their reach among younger audiences is diminishing.
The dwindling trust could be due to rampant criticism of journalists and news media.
On average, around 53% of people across all markets say they have experienced criticism from journalists.
The level of media criticism varies by market. In countries like Peru, about 71% of people report that they often face criticism in the news media.
At the other end of the spectrum, only 22% of respondents in Japan said the same thing.
The rise of news avoidance
Another important finding is the growing trend toward news avoidance.
Approximately 36% of people surveyed across markets admit to avoiding the news, either regularly from all sources or by limiting consumption to specific times or topics.
News avoiders prefer positive or solution-focused journalism and show less interest in the day’s biggest news stories.
Research suggests that the public may now avoid sharing or participating in news because they view online debates as toxic.
Key trends in the Reuters Institute’s 2023 Digital News Report include declining engagement with news, growing skepticism about algorithms, and rising news avoidance.
Declining trust in news is evident among younger audiences, who now favor influencers, celebrities and social media personalities over journalists.
In the age of digital and social media, nearly half of the public chooses not to engage with news, which warrants further exploration.
Whatever the solution to news avoidance and distrust, these changes cannot be ignored if the industry is to thrive.
source: Reuters Institute