Changes are on the way for publishers
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released their Digital newsletter for 2022. We’ve compiled some of the report’s key insights based on a survey of 46 markets for your reading (or listening) pleasure.
People prefer to consume their news in text rather than in video
Facebook continued its general decline in usage, but remains the leading social media platform for news consumption. instagram, ICT Tac and Telegram are the only social media platforms to see an increase in usage. These trends are notably due to the consumption habits of 18-24 year olds.
ICT Tac use increased rapidly, mainly among those under 25. 40% of 18-24 year olds use ICT Tac for any purpose, while 15% use the platform for news. Main reasons Reuters found for this in their qualitative research included the fact that these social feeds were more personalized and diverse than television. With this rise, publishers have increased their investments in video strategies. Concerns remain that news content may not be much sought after among an ocean of entertainment.
Despite the adoption of video content across all platforms, text remains the number one format for people consuming information across all age groups. This is good news for older editors who often had trouble reproducing their success on video platforms, especially on social networks.
Obvious reasons for this preference for text include that it’s faster to consume news (50%) and that text gives more control (34%). A dislike of pre-roll ads deters 35% of people from following video news, while 17% don’t think video adds anything to text stories. Those who prefer to consume video content find it an easier (42%) and more engaging (41%) format. 24% cite it’s more convenient because it already appears in their social media feeds. The relationship with video continues to be a struggle for publishers, but it seems a must for Gen Z.
Subscriptions stabilize with a tendency to have more than one
Subscriber revenue is the number one priority for publishers because we seen in the Reuters 2022 forecast, but growth has set in. An unchanged figure of 17% of people who pay for news online, with the Nordic countries remaining a haven for publisher payments. Norway leads with 41% paying for the news, followed by Sweden with 33% and Finland with 19% (tied with the wary US).
Despite much discussion of subscription fatigue, Reuters note that news editors might be less affected. Most respondents expect their media subscription numbers to remain the same, a more optimistic picture than expected. News subscribers tend to be older and wealthier with higher disposable income. For them, information is not perceived as a luxury service but as a necessity and they are likely to be less impacted by the cost of living crisis.
Publishers should continue to develop their products by investing in quality features like the editions to offer subscribers value for money. The role of newsletters increased as publishers retain these readers and introduce more customization to display the correct content. 17% use newsletters weekly, citing the convenience of the format (65%) and the diversity of perspectives (30%) as the reason for using them. More than 80% of those who use email for news are 35 or older in the US, so it can be a great tool for building paid relationships with traditional subscribers.
Australia (51%) and the United States (56%) have a majority of subscribers who pay for 2 publications. In the United States, it is usually a combination of national and local or cultural/niche news. Australians pay for platform-based news or US/UK-based publications as a second headline. This trend is not widely reflected but is an evolution to watch closely. people stay ready to pay for news so publishers need to boost acquisition efforts.
The average digital news subscriber is 47 and publishers are struggling to attract younger audiences
Publishers struggle to convince the younger generations to subscribe to news. The story is particularly grim in the UK. Only 8% of news subscribers are under 30, compared to 34% in the Netherlands. Younger generations grew up in an era when online news was free. In a world where they are more likely to pay for entertainment subscriptions such as audio and streaming, paying for news is not a habit for them.
A concern for younger generations is that the news is becoming more complex. 15% of young people who avoid the news explained that they do not consume news because it is difficult to follow. A significant proportion of the 36% who do not consume news because they lowers their mood also come from under 35s. Finding a balance between accessible and engaging content and world events is a challenge that publishers will have to meet in order to appeal to younger generations.
Unlike Millennials, Gen Z’s news habits are very different from those of older generations. Gen Z grew up with social media from a younger age than their millennial counterparts. Their information journeys are more likely to start, and even stay, on social media. How can publishers best meet them there or bring them to their products?
Mobile continues to rise, especially in the morning
Mobile remains the number one device for news consumption, but the 2022 report hints at the first drop in weekly access in 11 years. The reliance on the smart phone as a starting point for information travel has increased dramatically over the past 3 years. In Norway, Spain, Finland and the UK, mobile overtook other sources for the top spot. Somewhat surprisingly, morning newspaper consumption is first in the Netherlands and Finland, while television news dominates in the United States, France, Italy and Japan.
The smartphone is the device of choice for people under 35. 47% used a smartphone as their first device, compared to 28% of 35+ and 15% of 65+. On smartphones, social media has overtaken news websites and apps by 39% to 31% as the preferred channel to begin news consumption. Aggregation apps like Apple News continue their low pickup with just 9% using them to begin their journey into the news. Mobile seems to be the device of choice in Web2, so what trends will we see in web3?
The story of social media dominance continues in general news consumption. 28% cite social media as their preferred access point, ahead of 23% who prefer direct access. Social dominance is driven by the habits of the next generation of social natives who become adults. Direct traffic is more common in Europe, with social traffic coming from elsewhere.
Trust in the news is fading
After picking up during the pandemic era, trust in the news has dropped to 42%. Lower levels of trust were identified in 21 of the 46 markets surveyed. 18 markets maintain a similar level and only 7 saw an increase in confidence. The truth, however, may be different. Overall trust levels are higher than before the pandemic and the need for reliable information. The pandemic may therefore have been good for the reputation of publishers.
However, the figure of 42% is low. The story is most worrying in France, where only 29% of people trust the news, and in the United States with a common global low of 26%. These levels have been falling steadily for several years due to a series of polarizing events like the yellow vest protests in France and the Trump years in the United States.
These countries are also experiencing some of the highest levels of selective news avoidance, news disconnection, and general decline in news interest. 15% of people in the United States and 8% in France say they are disconnected from the news. In the United States, 42% actively avoid news, compared to 36% in France. Political allegiances are an important reason for this in the United States. 65% on the right of the political spectrum avoid the news because it is unreliable or biased. Trust fades and work must be done rebuild that relationship.
People don’t want to give their data to publishers
Along with this lack of trust, consumers do not trust publishers with their data. Only 32% trust news sites to use their personal data responsibly, ahead of social media (25%) but just behind online retailers (33%). There is a clear link found by Reuters between trust in information and people’s willingness to trust publishers with their data. The 48% with the highest levels of trust are more than twice as likely to give up on their data as the least confident 19%.
Despite the publishers bet big on first party data in a world without cookies, registrations are not widespread. News readers do not want to provide their data to publishers. Only 28% of respondents registered with one or more news websites in 2021. Consumers can often find the same news for free at different outlets. Building this trust will be fundamental to both subscriptions and building relationships with the public. Can publishers restore trust?
Changes are afoot for publishers. Their digital presence will continue to grow and will be crucial to their survival and future income.
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe
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