The 2023 Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute sheds light on the complex relationship between the public, news outlets, and social media platforms.
As we navigate one crisis after another, the demand for reliable and independent journalism is higher than ever.
However, the news industry grapples with weak audience engagement, low trust, and an uncertain business environment.
Drawing data from 46 markets across six continents, the report paints a picture of an industry under duress that’s pivoting, innovating, and adapting.
Significant findings in the report include the following:
- Legacy social networks like Facebook are seeing a dip in engagement. TikTok and other video-led platforms are on the rise.
- There’s a growing dependence on influencers or celebrities for news over traditional journalists.
- People are skeptical of news-selection algorithms, despite saying they prefer algorithmic news feeds.
- Public participation in online news is down, and trust in news sources continues to fall.
- Traditional media consumption, such as TV and print, continues to decline.
- A significant number of people avoid reading the news at all.
The report offers a comprehensive examination of the news industry and highlights challenges and opportunities for publishers.
This article compiles the report’s most relevant findings.
Trust Shifting From Journalists To Influencers
The way people access news is changing.
There’s a decrease in the number of people who prefer to start their news journey with a website or app, down ten percentage points since 2018.
Younger audiences, in particular, prefer to access news via social media, search engines, or mobile aggregators instead of news brands’ websites and apps.
Despite the widespread nature of digital and social media, weak audience engagement and low trust persist.
People increasingly turn to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities for news rather than journalists.
Distrust In Algorithms
Despite the preference to receive news from social media influencers, people are wary of algorithms used to curate news feeds.
Only 19% of those surveyed agreed that selecting news based on their friends’ consumption was a suitable way to get news.
There’s a worry that more personalized news could lead people to miss important information and challenging viewpoints.
When asked about selecting news stories based on past reading habits, the approval rate rose to 30%.
These numbers were more positive than the approval rate for news selected by editors and journalists, which stood at 27%.
Participation In Online News
The report finds a decrease in online news participation, 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% participate reactively—through reading, liking, or sharing news.
Meanwhile, 47% don’t engage with news at all.
Trust In Online News
Trust in news has decreased, with an average of 40% of respondents saying they trust news most of the time.
Public media brands enjoy high trust levels, but their reach among younger audiences is declining.
The dwindling trust could stem from rampant criticism of journalists and news media.
On average, about 53% of people across all markets report encountering criticism of journalists.
Levels of media criticism vary across different markets. In countries like Peru, approximately 71% of people report frequent exposure to news media criticism.
At the other end of the spectrum, only 22% of respondents in Japan reported the same.
The Rise Of News Avoidance
Another significant finding is the growing trend of news avoidance.
About 36% of people surveyed across markets admit to avoiding the news, either periodically from all sources or restricting consumption to specific times or topics.
News avoiders prefer positive or solutions-based journalism and show less interest in the day’s major stories.
Research suggests that the public may now avoid sharing or participating in news due to viewing online debates as toxic.
Key trends of the 2023 Digital News Report by Reuters Institute include declining engagement with news, growing skepticism towards algorithms, and a rise in news avoidance.
Declining trust in news is pronounced among younger audiences, who now favor influencers, celebrities, and social media personalities over journalists.
In this digital and social media age, nearly half of the public chooses not to engage with news, which calls for further exploration.
Whatever the solution for news avoidance and distrust, these shifts can’t be ignored if the industry hopes to thrive.
Source: Reuters Institute