The third annual digital news report published today by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) offers an interesting insight into how traditional media is adapting to the challenges of digital news.
It reveals new insights about digital news consumption based on a YouGov survey of over 18,000 online news consumers in the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Denmark and Finland.
The report contains data about the growth of tablets and smartphones, as well as generational and country based differences in media usage. It also offers analysis on the role of impartial news in a digital world and the role of social media in finding and distributing news.
RISJ identifies smartphone and social media as the most powerful agents of change, and highlights clear generational differences in how we identify and consume news.
The report suggests that ‘Traditional news outlets are facing a new wave of disruption as the digital revolution sweeps on’, and that this is ‘likely to further change the relationship between news companies and their audiences and could have profound implications for societies in advanced economies.’
The report also highlights that established news organisations in some countries, such as Japan and The U.S, are finding it hard to transform print success to the web.
However, in Britain, Denmark, Finland and Germany, traditional news brands have managed to maintain market share online while driving editorial and business innovation.
Interestingly, 36% of 18-24s say they use smartphones as their primary access for news across all 10 countries. The figures suggest that as this trends increases, different groups will develop their own, narrow relationship with news sources rather than sharing a broader range of views.
This also means that news consumption via Smartphone, which are the favoured news source for young people, are encouraging users to consume news more frequently throughout the day, thereby reducing the dependence on appointment-to-view television and printed newspaper issues.
Google News remains a leading player in Italy, France and Germany while Yahoo! is the top news site in Japan.
In the US and Japan, these digital companies – the so-called pure players and aggregators – now rival traditional media in popularity online, putting further pressure on business models.
However, in most countries the majority of news consumed online still comes from established newspaper and broadcaster brands, which are particularly valued in covering stories of national and international importance.
The report also reveals that much of the conversation in social media is driven by the work of mainstream journalists, with 64% of Twitter users in Britain (roughly 5.4m people) following a professional news account.
Dr David Levy, director of the Reuters Institute, comments: “In some countries, such as the UK, established news brands have retained their loyalty in the more competitive online environment.
“But the rapid growth of social media as a way of discovering and consuming news has a range of possible ramifications.
“While choice proliferates, consumption may narrow; reliance on recommendations from like minded friends could mean people are less exposed to a broad news agenda.”
In terms of the debate about paywalls versus free access, the report confirms the number of people paying for digital news (11% average) has remained stable over the past 12 months, although we have seen a significant switch to more valuable ongoing digital subscription in most countries.
Of those paying for news in all countries, 59% are paying for an ongoing subscription (43% 2013). Of those who are not paying, 15% say they are likely to pay in the future
This means that only a minority of people have paid for digital news in the last year (ranging from 7% in the UK to 11% in the US, 14% in Finland and 22% in Brazil).
But, in some countries, many more do say they might pay in the future and there has been a substantial increase in the proportion taking out a subscription.
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