Oxford University's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has just released their 6th annual Digital News Report, which has quickly become one of the most widely read and most valuable source of top-level data on digital news consumption trends around the world.
Having gone through all 136 pages, here's what I think are the most interesting findings:
- Facebook remains the most important social platform, especially for news publishers, something we have written about ourselves using the comprehensive data of the SMI. (Reuters data covers most of Europe and North America, but only a few Asian countries, four Latin American ones and none from Africa or the Middle East.)
- Algorithms are reaching more readers than human editors. Especially among the young, usage of algorithmic sources (social, aggregators and search) now exceeds manually curated ones (print, TV).
- News apps and mobile alerts are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, as usage has jumped by 20-30% in many countries.
- Smartphone and social media usage for news consumption is now stagnating, and the number of channels used is declining. It may be time for consolidation online.
- More people, and especially younger readers, are willing to pay for news online.
1 Facebook is still the key platform - and its messaging apps are growing fast.
Chart 1: Which, if any, of the following have you used for any purpose/for news in the last week?
2 Algorithms are reaching more readers than human editors - especially among the young
Chart 2: Which of these was the MAIN way in which you came across news in the last week?
3 It's consolidation time for smartphones and social
Chart 3: Which, if any, of the following have you used in the last week as a source of news?
One point to note about the Reuters data is that it comes from surveys conducted in 30+ countries. There are some limitations to this data - self-reporting is not always accurate, and the report leaves out entire regions of the world. However, other data sources, such as the Social Media Index, show the same pattern.
4 News apps and mobile alerts are becoming a big deal - fast
Chart 4: Which were the ways in which you came across news stories online?
5 Many people have started to pay for news online - especially young Americans. Convenience was key.
Chart 5: Have you paid for online news content in the last year?
6 Millions of Americans already get news from their smart speakers
Chart 6: Do you use a smart speaker to access news?
7 Few people follow politicians from across the aisle
Chart 7: Do you follow any politicians on social media?
Finally, the report challenges two of the cliches that have come to dominate conversations in and about digital media.
- Declining trust in the media is not the result of social media unleashing 'fake news'. Political polarisation, declining trust in elites are much bigger, and more complicated, issues.
- Opinion bubbles are not exclusive to social media. Remarkably, users of social media, aggregators, and search engines experience more diversity than non-users.
[Note: All charts and images are from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, and are republished with no changes made under a Creative Commons 3.0 policy]