Hello and welcome to episode 79 of the Public Sector Marketing Show. 

My favourite research of the year is out and I share my top takeaways for public sector PR and media pros.

The 2023 Digital News Report produced by Reuters Institute and University of Oxford highlights how public sector pros need to re-think their PR strategy.

Influencers continue to influence online, podcasting is growing, TikTok is commanding news attention and news avoidance is a big issue.

I speak to Professor Colleen Murrell from the DCU School of Communications, who is lead researcher of the report in Ireland.

So stay tuned and find out how citizens are consuming, or not, news in the Digital Age.

Coming up in episode #79:

  • ✍️ Column: We can no longer ignore the rapidly changing trends when it comes to news consumption.
  • 💬 Consulting: My top takeaways from the report to inform your new PR strategy.
  • 🎙️ Interview: Professor Colleen Murrell of DCU School of Communications, and lead researcher of the report in Ireland.

Column | We can no longer ignore the rapidly changing trends when it comes to news consumption.

Who took part in the study?

This year's report reveals new insights about digital news consumption based on a YouGov survey of over 93,000 online news consumers in 46 markets covering half of the world's population.

This year’s report comes against the backdrop of a global cost-of-living crisis, a continuing war in the heart of Europe, and further climate instability across the world. In this context, a strong supply of accurate, well-funded, independent journalism remains critical, but in many of the countries covered in our survey, we find these conditions challenged by low levels of trust, declining engagement, and an uncertain business environment.

Report learnings for Public Sector Marketing Pros

Consulting | My top takeaways from the report to inform your new Digital PR strategy.

What are the big takeaway?

The 12th annual report documents how video-based content, distributed via networks such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are becoming more important for news, especially in parts of the Global South, while legacy platforms such as Facebook are losing influence.

Here is a summary of some of the most important findings from the 2023 research.

  1. 🎯 Shocks shift news consumption: The pandemic, war in Ukraine, cost-of-living crisis  have all accelerated shifts towards more digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environments, with further implications for the business models and formats of journalism.
  2. 🎯 Digital-news consumption is down: 22% of respondents say they prefer to start their news journeys with a website or app – that’s down 10% since 2018. What does this mean? Younger demographics everywhere are showing a weaker connection with news brands’ own websites and apps than previous cohorts – preferring to access news via side-door routes such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators
  3. 🎯 Facebook’s influence on journalism declining: While Facebook remains one of the most-used social networks overall, its influence on journalism is declining as it shifts its focus away from news. It also faces new challenges from YouTube and TikTok. TikTok reaches 44% of 18–24s across markets and 20% for news.
  4. 🎯 Celebrities and influencers get more attention than journalists: When it comes to news, audiences say they pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities than journalists in networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. This contrasts sharply with Facebook and Twitter, where news media and journalists are still central to the conversation.
  5. 🎯Algorithm-scepticism: Much of the public is sceptical of the algorithms used to select what they see via search engines, social media, and other platforms. 30% say that having stories selected for me on the basis of previous consumption is a good way to get news, 6% points lower than when Reuters last asked the question in 2016. Despite this, on average, users still slightly prefer news selected this way to that chosen by editors or journalists (27%), suggesting that worries about algorithms are part of a wider concern about news and how it is selected.
  6. 🎯Online news consumption declines: Despite hopes that the Internet could widen democratic debate, fewer people are now participating in online news than in the recent past. Aggregated across markets, only 22% are now active participators, with around half (47%) not participating in news at all. In the UK and United States, the proportion of active participators have fallen by more than 10% since 2016. Across countries the research finds that this group tends to be male, better educated, and more partisan in their political views.
  7. 🎯 Trust in the news has fallen: Trust in news has fallen across markets, by a further 2% in the last year, reversing – in many countries – the gains made at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. On average, 40% say they trust most news most of the time. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (69%), while Greece (19%) has the lowest after a year characterised by heated arguments about press freedom and the independence of the media.
  8. 🎯 Public media brands are amongst those with the highest levels of trust: in many Northern European countries, but reach has been declining with younger audiences. This is important because we find that those that use these services most frequently are more likely to see them as important personally and for society. These findings suggest that maintaining the breadth of public service reach remains critical for future legitimacy and especially with younger groups.
  9. 🎯 Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, continues to fall: the fall is seen in most markets, with online and social consumption not making up the gap. Our data show that online consumers are accessing news less frequently than in the past and are also becoming less interested. Despite the political and economic threats facing many people, fewer than half (48%) of our aggregate sample now say they are very or extremely interested in news, down from 63% in 2017.
  10. 🎯 News avoidance: The proportion of news consumers who say they avoid news, often or sometimes, remains close to all-time highs at 36% across markets. Research found this group splits between (a) those who are trying to periodically avoid all sources of news and (b) those that are trying to specifically restrict their news usage at particular times or for certain topics. News avoiders are more likely to say they are interested in positive or solutions-based journalism and less interested in the big stories of the day.
  11. 🎯Cost of living crisis: With household budgets under pressure and a significant part of the public satisfied with the news they can access for free, there are signs that the growth in online news payment may be levelling off. Across a basket of 20 richer countries, 17% paid for any online news – the same figure as last year. Norway (39%) has the highest proportion of those paying, with Japan (9%) and the United Kingdom (9%) amongst the lowest. Amongst those cancelling their subscription in the last year, the cost of living or the high price was cited most often as a reason. In the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, about half of non-subscribers say that nothing could persuade them to pay for online news, with lack of interest or perceived value remaining fundamental obstacles.
  12. 🎯Digital subscriptions: As in previous years, we find that a large proportion of digital subscriptions go to just a few upmarket national brands – reinforcing the winner takes most dynamics that are often associated with digital media. But in a number of countries, including the United States, we are now seeing the majority of those paying taking out more than one subscription. This reflects the increased supply of discounted offers as well as the introduction of all-access bundles in some markets.
  13. 🎯 Text-based news: Across countries the majority of online users say they still prefer to read the news rather than watch or listen to it. Text provides more speed and control in accessing information, but in a few countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, respondents now say they prefer video to text. Video news consumption has been growing steadily across markets, with most video content now accessed via third-party platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.
  14. 🎯 News podcasting: continues to resonate with educated and younger audiences but remains a minority activity overall. Around a third (34%) access a podcast monthly, with 12% accessing a show relating to news and current affairs. Our research finds that deep dive podcasts, inspired by The Daily from the New York Times, along with extended chat shows, such as The Joe Rogan Experience, are the most widely consumed across markets. We also identify the growing popularity of video-led or hybrid news podcasts.

NOTE: Access your country data from the report here.

Interview | Why Public Sector Marketing?

Professor Colleen Murrell of DCU School of Communications, and lead researcher of the report in Ireland.

Thank You for Listening!

Thank you for tuning into episode 79.  If you are a regular listener, please rate and review our show.

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