Plagued by fake news, political polarization and media bias—real or perceived—Americans have shifted their digital media consumption habits accordingly. The new Reuters 2017 Digital News Report pulls out some of the key developments in the world of digital media. The shifts are not just occurring on the consumer side of things. Struggling traditional business models are trying to figure out how to adapt to meet consumers’ demands.
Here are 8 things we learned from this years’ report:
Paid subscriptions to news outlets are rising rapidly. It is impossible to disassociate news from the politics that’s behind the major events of the day.
Referred to as the “Trump Bump,” paid subscriptions for news outlets have increased from 9% to 16% in the past year.
Donations have increased too, tripling since last year. Reasons for this spike are numerous. 30% said the main reason they pay for news is to access publications like the New York Times on their smartphones or tablets. Other reasons include seeking out a variety of viewpoints, bargains and regarding paid news as more reputable than free news. Similarly, the ad-blocker trend has slowed:
23%of Americans use an ad-blocker, down one percentage point from 2016.
Only 7% of people have added ad-blockers to their mobile devices, a much lower rate than many feared.
News websites that prompt users to temporarily disable their ad-blocker find success 43% of the time.
The ways in which people acquire their news through digital media are evolving faster than most outlets can keep up. Significant challenges exist for news outlets to maximize exposure to their stories. It’s impossible for every story to be uplifting, just as it is for the coverage of each story to be universally perceived as unbiased. With consumers showing a clear preference for truthful, personalized and accessible news, outlets will have to work towards these demands to stop the American public’s rising apathy towards the news.
Social media is the main news aggregator for Gen Z. Particularly within the 18-24 demographic, social media has continued to emerge as a source for news. As the President’s preferred mode of communication, Twitter usage has spiked— at least temporarily. The mix of personal relationships with news stories in a person’s timeline means that news may not be getting a user’s undivided attention, but the opportunity for exposure is certain as you can see from these stats:
15 percent of Americans get news from Twitter, up from 10% a year ago.
51% of Americans use social media for news, almost always in tandem with other sources, such as TV news and mobile apps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwEecEKElAU
33% of 18-24 year olds consider social media their primary method of learning about the news, higher than online news sites, and TV news and printed newspapers combined.
News aggregators are growing faster than anything else. Apple News has figured out how to successfully maneuver in this market, offering personalized alerts and spotlight search features that have contributed to its rising popularity. Snapchat Discover, which rolled out in 2015 and has flourished remarkably since then, is reaching 23% of the 18-24 year old demographic in the United States. This feature contains text and visual representations of stories sourced from diverse outlets, ranging from the distinguished—Wall Street Journal, The Economist—to the frivolous—BuzzFeed, People Magazine. Reddit, branded as the front page of the Internet, remains a popular service within the United States, but has never seen its allure replicated internationally.
Video usage is slowing. Most video watched at all comes in the form of short clips. Companies are still struggling to monetize videos due to the brevity of viewership, as no one wants to watch a :15 advertisement before a :30 second video. While live video continues to be popular, this channel will more likely occupy a prominent, yet still supplementary spot in the news media space. After a frenzied growth period, video media has settled into a pocket of the overall media landscape:
63% of Americans still prefer their news to be text-only.
13% prefer video and 15% prefer that the text and video are integrated.
Fake news is discrediting even the most reputable news outlets. Fake news has no basis in reality, making its dissemination potentially dangerous, as seen during the falsified “Pizzagate” scandal. The American people are wary of this new trend. Only 24% believe social media does a good job of distinguishing real news from fake, hurting the likelihood of users visiting these sites for news. That number only rises to 40% when respondents were asked about traditional news media, a sign that credibility has been damaged across the board. News outlets will have to find a way to reestablish their trustworthiness to cut through the noise.
More Americans are avoiding the news. 38%of Americansavoid the news“often or sometimes” due to various reasons, compared to a 29% rate worldwide. 48% said a negative effect on mood was the primary reason behind their decision. Almost four in ten respondents cited a distrust for the news as their rationale for avoiding the news. These responses were decidedly split on partisan lines, with 62% of conservatives saying that untrustworthy news made them reluctant to tune in.
AI is determining who sees what and when – and we don’t all like that. Social media users no longer see posts from all their contacts in chronological order. Rather, posts are presented in an order that AI has determined will be most intriguing to a specific user. While 54% prefer algorithm-generated curation to editorial curation, social media has plateaued—or even declined—in its usage as a news service in most countries except for the United States.
Social media broadens our perspective…but not as much as it used to. The Reuters study also found that social media actually counteracts echo chambers and exposes people to a wider variety of opinions than they would otherwise encounter. This incidental exposure is dwindling, though. People are increasingly changing their settings to see less of what they don’t want to see in their timelines.