An ever-changing terrain: Reuters’ latest insights on digital news consumption

A recent Reuters report of 20,000 people in 12 countries shows the way we digitally source news is continuing to evolve globally, with main findings being an increased use of Smartphones, a decreased use of desktops, a higher number of people looking to social media for news, and digital-born brands rivalling traditional players in domestic markets, sometimes beating them internationally.

While Media Briefing says the Reuters Institute Digital News Report arguably doesn’t reveal too many new developments, it does reinforce many of the major trends we have been seeing.

Countries surveyed were Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Urban Brazil, Spain, USA, Italy, UK, France, Germany and Japan.

One key finding is the rapid increase of Smartphone use for news. Average weekly usage has grown from 37 percent to 46 percent and mobile devices may overtake desktop in 2016 as the most important device for online news consumption, with growth in this area mainly being seen among 18-24-year-olds.

The report also shows tablet usage for news in most markets is slowing (though not yet declining), whilst the desktop is still the most important device for online consumption by 57 percent of respondents, down from 65 percent last year.

Australia’s respondents used its Smartphones for news the most with 59 percent  doing so, followed by Denmark at 57 percent. Japan and Finland use their desktop computers the most at 78 percent and 75 percent respectively.

Australia is also one of the main countries using tablets for news at 35 percent, just behind Denmark at 39 percent.

However the US has seen big jumps in Smartphone use for news, up 13 percent from last year and up 2 percent for tablets. The same can be said of the UK, with Smartphone use up nine percent and tablet usage up 8 percent.

Another interesting finding is social media’s increasing role as a platform for news consumption, with the most growth being seen in France from 19 percent in 2014 to 34 percent in this year, Brazil from 50 percent in 2014 to 64 percent in this year, the UK from 23 percent last year to 36 percent this year and the US from 30 percent last year to 40 percent this year, with Brazilian respondents having the highest percentage use of social media for news discovery at 64 percent up from 50 percent last year.

“The upward trend of social as a source for news over the past four years is pretty discernible, reflecting the rationale for continued – and increased – investment in this space by many media players,” Media Briefing’s Damien Radcliffe said on the report.

This is an interesting trend in light of Facebook Articles which it announced last month and allows mobile users to view articles from other websites without leaving Facebook, making for a faster loading time, more data collection about what users like to consume and therefore a potentially enhanced user experience. There are also benefits for publishers – users can zoom in and explore high res photos by tilting their phones, explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions and more.

According to the report, in the social space, unsurprisingly Facebook dominates as the most popular social network for news consumption with more than double the audience of its closest rival, YouTube.

Forty-one percent of countries surveyed reported using Facebook to find, read, watch, share or comment on the news each week.

Twitter’s popularity was at 11 percent. However Media Briefing notes “This top-level finding risks overlooking the different ways in which users harness these networks. As the report notes, ‘we seek news on Twitter, but bump into it on Facebook.’”

These days we can access news easily for free and online on our phones, so it comes as no surprise that the number of people willing to pay for it online remains quite small, with regular paying subscribers being the audience to target.

Amongst the highest news users – as opposed to the entire population – in the countries studied, fewer than one in five pay for online news.


“Payment is highest in Finland (14 percent and Denmark (13 percent) and lowest in the UK (6 percent) and Ireland (7 percent) demonstrating the uphill struggle that most publishers face as they move to paywall or micropayment models,” Media Brief reports.

In Australia 11 percent pay for news, a higher percentage than the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Ireland.

The report says average spend in this arena is also quite low, though different markets are at different phases in terms of how consumers pay for their online content.

“In some of these paid-for markets, paying audiences are quite “sticky.” Over two-thirds of paying online news subscribers in the UK, USA and Australia has an on-going payments set up,” Radcliffe says.

Another finding was the prevalence of ad-blocking software with 47 percent of Reuter’s US sample using it and 39 percent of UK respondents.

Radcliffe suggests against this backdrop media players may be further incentivised to explore the potential benefits of native advertising.

The Reuter’s report also showed an increase in the consumption of online news video. On average, 23 percent (a five percent increase) of respondents accessed online news video weekly, 40 percent found text more convenient, 29 percent were put off by preroll ads and 21 percent preferred to watch on a big screen.

Another interesting find was that digital-born brands are rivalling traditional players in domestic markets and sometimes beating them internationally.

The report notes that Buzzfeed has doubled its market share in the US in the past twelve months from (5 percent to 10 percent), whilst The Huffington Post (at 22 percent weekly reach), beats both the New York Times and CNN in its home market. Internationally The Huffington Post beats the BBC and MSN.

In regard to top global brands 12 percent of Australians questioned had tapped into The Huffington Post the week before, seven percent on Buzzfeed, one percent on vice, 25 percent on MSN and 21 percent on Yahoo. Seven percent had tapped into the Guardian and four percent in to the New York Times, showing a preference for more recently spawned sites.

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