1030-Thurs-062421-PR-BO 17-Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 US Launch-FINAL
7:15PM Jun 21, 2021
Hello, I'm Ross Nelson. I'm director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of journalism and Professor of Political communication at University of Oxford. I'm here to present the 2021 or just Institute digital news report, with a particular focus on the US results and go from that into a discussion of some of the findings and implications with who use story who is chief news strategist and Chief Product with technology officer at the Wall Street Journal, Emily Tran, who is vice president of content strategy and growth at Conde Nast. The rightest Institute digital support is the world's largest ongoing study of news media news. This year, we cover 46 markets all over the world with more than 92,000 respondents answering questions about how they use media, and news and what they think of it. The study is based on online surveys. So I should stress here that in markets where penetration is still limited, this will under represent particular older people, less affluent people and people with limited connectivity. The Report is made possible by 15 different sponsors, including the Google News initiative, media organizations like the BBC, media regulators, foundations and universities, as well as our network of country partners around the world who help us design the study and interpret the results. They all just highlight a few key findings from really deep and complex study, and then use that as terminal point for discussion. What I want to start with is some observations about how the covid 19 pandemic has impacted the way in which people see the news and use the news around the world. Start with the good news. Across the 46 markets we've covered this year, we've seen a significant increase in how many people say they trust most news, most of the time, it's up six percentage points. And there's been no similar change in people's trust in the news that they see on social media, which means that the trust gap between people's perception of news in general and the news that they come across on social media, but also other platforms has grown. Now, there are very big differences from country to country in terms of how much people say they trust the news in a number of countries is in really big increases 10 percentage points, or more in many examples. Of course, we also need to recognize that this is not the case everywhere. And in the US, there's been no real change. And actually, this year, the US has the lowest level of trust in the news, all the different markets that we cover in the report. Trust the news, of course matters in part in terms of the role of journalists in society and how people navigate news and seek it out but also for the commercial fortunes of news organizations that aim to win people's attention, their loyalty, and perhaps convert them to paying subscribers. And when we look at the brand level across the world, while it isn't a perfect relationship, we do find that when we compare reach in early 2020, when we survey last year with early 2021 when we were in the field this year, that those brands that have more people in the public saying they trust them have often seen a higher increase in their online reach over the last year than brands that are less trusted, often more partisan brands, more popular brands or brands with a shorter history than more established legacy organizations, often public service broadcasters or commercial brands, the long history of accurate and often impartial news provision to trust matters journalism as a whole but also at the brand level and we see more trust brands generally have benefited more from increases in news consumption over the last year. Now, the backdrop here, of course also is that people's concern over misinformation have perhaps increased appreciation of Those sources of information that really stand out against the notion of noise and sometimes false or misleading information. When we look more broadly at the sort of sample concerns that people have about misinformation in the last year, it's not surprising that COVID has been a major focus concern, looking just at the data from the United States. By now we have about as many in the US saying that they've seen misinformation about COVID-19. In the last week, as say, they've seen this information about politics, which in the last years have been the central focus of concern the public. And there are still large numbers of people who identifies other areas, whether
it's sort of Johnny Depp istep type misinformation about celebrities, or other politicized issues like climate change as areas some really public concern about misinformation in the US is centered around COVID-19. Politics. In light of that, it's probably not surprising that when we ask people about what sources of false or misleading information that they are most concerned about when it comes to COVID-19. The politicians are really singled out as the type of source that people are most concerned about. And there are other concerns. There are people who are concerned about the the sort of the proverbial internet uncle on the internet sharing on trustworthy or false information. There are concerns about activists in some circles or concerns about journalists or even foreign governments. But really, the central concern here is about the role of domestic politicians, our own elected officials, including some cases for President. This concern is very, very highly polarized along partisan lines. So drawing on a separate piece of research we've done early on in the academic and again this year, if we break down the levels of concern about false and misleading information about COVID-19 from the national government in the last week by political leaning, last year in the United States, a far higher degree, a number of people in the left 57% expressed a lot a great deal of concern over false and misleading information from the federal government. When we're into the field A year later, concern has essentially flipped. And by April 2021, there are more people on the right, who are worried about false and misleading information Coronavirus from the federal government, and there were on the left last year. So the flip from Trump to Biden administration has also changed the contours of public concern about false and misleading information about the virus. Now, of course, it's only in part about sources it's also about platforms. Here we see very significant differences from country to country in terms of what platform people are most concerned about false and misleading information from a number of markets in the global south concern is really focused on WhatsApp. So Indonesia, India, and Nigeria and other new addition this year. Whereas in many countries in North America and Western Europe, concern is really focused on Facebook as the platform that most people single out as the one that we're most concerned about also misleading information from overall the global concern globally, concern is focused on Facebook as a corporate entity. 43% of our respondents and 46 markets identify either Facebook or WhatsApp as the platform that they're most concerned about polls of this being information from far more than any other platform company, even much larger competitors. Now, the backdrop of concern over misinformation, and the increase in trust in many markets is important important for how people navigate the world, but also for the commercial fortunes, not just in terms of reach, but also whether or more trusted brands can convince people to pay for the news that they consume online. Overall, the proportion of people who say they've been paying for any online news in the last year has grown a little bit in some markets. But it's not transformative. We have 21% of our response in the US saying they paid in some form on my news and last year, so a lot of growth since 2016. Or it's just 9%. But not a huge growth since last year. We have some other marketers to see a bit of growth as well like the Netherlands, in Europe. Of course, the Nordic countries are doing even better than us in terms of the number of people who are paying with various moving levels. Hey, but there is little progress in several other markets, including several continental Europe and the UK. And really, I think we sort of need to contend with this, even as the industry increasingly is moving towards pay models and is trying to convince people to pay for the news they consume online. That much of the public is reluctant to pay for online news. And as these two quotes from some of our focus groups in Europe suggest you know have a pretty sort of full fledged view as to why they aren't really interested in paying your as a young woman from the UK says that news is literally everywhere, so she don't really see any news need To pay for it, an older man from a focus group in Germany who says that he can get all the information that he needs for the aggregator and don't really see a need for any subscriptions. So, while some individual titles are seeing very real progress, very impressive and very inspiring progress, it remains a really challenging environment. This is compounded by a strong pattern we've documented for a little while by now in our research, which is very strong, where it takes most dynamics in terms of what individual brands people are paying for.
These are the brands that our respondents say that they are paying to access in the US, the UK and Norway and with some variation, but the same general pattern in each of these markets. A small number of upmarket national titles account for about half or sometimes more than half of all online news subscriptions. New York Times The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal in the US in the UK, the telegraph at times and the guardians membership model. And in Norway, both a sort of a popular tide like veggy, as well as more upmarket titles like often talked about. The real variation across markets is not so much in the winner takes most dynamics and the tendency for a few national upmarket titles dominate the subscription game. It's really more in terms of how well local titles are doing. In Norway, we have a very large number of respondents who say that they're paying for local news subscription online. Whereas in the UK, where of course, we are based at the Institute has just 3% say they've been paying for local regional city newspaper or a website in the last year, the US is somewhere in between, with 23% of our respondents saying that they're paying for local, regional, or city newspapers or websites online. And the US is also remarkable in the four to six markets look at because it's the only market in which by now the median number of subscriptions have inched over one and by now, the median subscriber in the US is actually paying for two different titles often either a upmarket national generalist brand and a local brand, or an upmarket generalist national brand, and some sort of niche publication, often opinion oriented sort of magazine of ideas, or the like. Now, why are people then saying that I've taken out more than one subscription, we identify a range of different motivations based on open survey responses. So we have respondents
really are, are motivated by ideals, if you will, our values in the sense that journalism has an intrinsic value we want to support that goes well beyond the instrumental transactional value that they might have, as customers, we have here, a response from a person in the US, who says that he is subscribed to nine different publications was worse than in the case of propublica. So you know, this might be the dream individual from the point of view of many in the news industry. But of course, it's not the only way of thinking about this. We also have people who've been convinced by sort of campaign offers of various sorts, often bladder in Sweden, for example, here, offering a subscription at an almost a nominal price to suit to bring in new customers and a woman here, she's taking them up on that as an additional subscription on top of our local paper. We also have other motivations, the search for different perspectives, to supplement what people see as sort of the middle of the road, things that are easy to access. So you're an older man from the US who identifies an interest in paying for in depth or alternative views in depth, interested in sports, but also pays for the National Review on top of the wall street journal, to get additional Indian material from that publication. And now, of course, there are some who really say that they value, breadth and diversity. Now, it remains a really challenging environment that's clear from both industry experience in our numbers as well. But it's not really clear. The public is that aware of these travails in the news industry, it's just 31% of our respondents in the United States, who are aware that much of the news industry is less profitable these days than it was in the past. And about half of our respondents are not concerned about the financial state of commercial news media. And of course, a specific number of people have no opinion on the matter whatsoever. So in light of this sort of low level of public concern about the challenges facing the news, industry, and, and low level of concern in general about the fortunes of commercial news media, as well as, of course, a long tradition of the US being an extreme outlier amongst liberal democracies in terms of not really having any significant forms of government support for independent professional journalism. It's not that surprising that only 18% of our responds in the US say that they support idea of government stepping in to help commercial news organizations that can't make enough money on their own. Now, of course, in addition to the issues around business news that are so central for many in top position industry, there's also been a reckoning over the nature of news carpets itself and the way in which it serves or perhaps sometimes fails to serve some communities and our societies in the last year. We've tried to get a handle on how the public perceives the fairness or lack thereof of news as the experience of this year with a set of new questions around this. And really, if we start with this in terms of politics, which is so central, such as trust in the news, we find in country after country that when asked, generally how fairly the news media deal with them and people like them, but there is a lot of this concern on the political right, most extremely United States, where a net negative of 59 percentage points of people on the right don't believe the news media deals with people like them fairly. Whereas there is more appreciation on political left. But this is a pattern we see in quite a number of countries, including Germany, and Spain. Now, the discontent with the newspaper on the political right, I think is sort of well understood and long documented. Of course, it's also really important that journalism as a profession and the news industry, as an institution, wrestles with a very widespread discontent amongst minorities. When we look at data by race ethnicity in the United States, while in general, our white respondents read the news net, as a relatively fair in his coverage are very clear negative ratings from black Americans, Hispanic Americans who feel they're being generally unfairly represented newsmedia. Combine this with the political patterns that we've identified. And geographically you get a situation where in coastal states and mountain states, there is a greater appreciation of the news media carry themselves, whereas in much of the Midwest and the South, are much lower levels appreciations without carriers. So Well, we've asked also questions about people's preference for relatively impartial news coverage versus potentially more outspoken news coverage in these incredibly divisive times where people are disagreeing rather vigorously a number of questions about how we live together in our societies. And and I think it's it's worth it.