A key moment at this year’s GEN Summit will be the unveiling of the latest data from theReuters Institute Digital News Report. This annual report tracks changing consumer behaviour in 12 countries and is the largest ongoing survey of news consumption in the world. Lead author of the report, Nic Newman, Research Associate at Reuters Institute, gives GEN a few clues about what to expect:
Q: What are the key themes this year?
The headlines relate to the on-going shift toward mobile and social media but we’re also picking up some significant moves around online video and other visual formats. This is partly because news organisations are producing more video but also because social networks have changed their algorithms to radially change the distribution game. The results are pretty dramatic – particularly in some European countries, which have been coming from a low base, but have seen double-digit growth in online video consumption.
Q: What about the move to mobile?
This has intensified in the last year with more people using mobile phones to access news and more people accessing from multiple devices than ever before.
But the move to mobile is making it even harder for publishers to make money from journalism. Many news brands are struggling to cut through on mobile with access to content increasingly mediated by third-parties such as Facebook, Apple and Google. Our data shows that only loyal users are using apps and overall people are using fewer news brands on mobile than they do on the tablet or computer. These problems are compounded by the increasing difficulty of selling effective advertising space on small screens with consumers increasingly resistant to any format that interrupts the reading experience.
Q: What trends are you seeing in social media?
We’ll be revealing the detailed figures at the GEN Summit but in general we have seen Facebook tightening its hold on social discovery and social distribution in almost all the countries we look at – along with Facebook-owned companies WhatsApp and Instagram. The power of social platforms for finding, sharing and discussing news has reached critical mass and is putting further pressure pressure on the business models of many traditional news organisations. Increasingly, we see that these trends are not confined to the US or just a few markets, but are playing out all over the world. Our data shows that, across all platforms, significantly fewer people are accessing the front page of a news website. More people are going directly to stories via social media, search, email or other discovery methods
Q: Any surprises this year?
The extent of ad-blocking particularly amongst those that are most frequent users of news is becoming an increasing problem and we believe this could significantly impact digital revenues over the next year for those sites that primarily depend on advertising revenues. We’ve also looked for the first time at the overall market share of new global players like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and compared this with first wave disrupters like Yahoo and MSN. We’re seeing shifts in consumer behaviour and a changing of the guard in terms of the pure players.
Q. What else is in this year’s report?
We have data on trust, which reveals radically different levels of confidence in the media in different countries. There’s new research on consumer attitudes to sponsored content in the UK and the US. There’s also detailed analysis of the data from industry figures and academics. The BBC’s Director of News, James Harding reflects on the pace of change and the implications of growing information inequality. Emily Bell, Director of the Tow Center for Digital Innovation – a new partner this year – looks at the implications of the increasing role played by Facebook and Google in the news value chain while Robert Picard picks his way through the changing business models from paid content to native advertising.
Q. The Digital News Report has received extra funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative – what research are you planning for the future?
We have a wider group of sponsors and supporters than ever before, but Google’s investment will help us expand the number of countries in our study to around 25 in 2016. Just as important, we would like to do much more detailed cross country research into specific areas of interest like video or business models. We’d certainly welcome industry ideas for what areas would prove most valuable. Finally, we’d love to find ways of making our data more accessible so that anybody can access and use it for commercial or non-commercial purposes. We continue to believe there is gap in good reliable cross country research on news consumption and hope that we can go some way to filling it over the coming years. This year we are joined by the Tow Center at Colombia University, the News and Media Research Centre at Canberra University in Australia, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland working with Dublin City University, Ireland. This active research community also includes our longstanding academic partners the Hans Bredow Institute in Hamburg, Roskilde University in Denmark, and the School of Communication at the University of Navarra in Spain.
From 16 June you can find full data and analysis on the website www.digitalnewsreport.org.