The Reuters Institute, which studies and researches journalism and media in our society, publishes an annual report on the state of online news. Here are some of the most interesting points raised in the latest 2019 report, published on Wednesday.
1. The number of people paying for news subscriptions has stabilised. It’s not rising or falling
After the election of Donald Trump in the US most online news outlets felt a ‘Trump bump’. The amount of people willing to pay for news went up. Readers recognised that it was important to support high-quality journalism.
That bump has eased off now. This could mean that the market has reached its saturation point. It’s got all the customers it can and the people who aren’t paying will never pay.
That is probably not true. Only around 11% of people pay for their news. Most people recognise that it is vitally important for a functioning society that there is strong, sustainable journalism. What this means, then, is that people don’t see the value in subscribing to online news. The product isn’t worth it.
At Mogul News we believe that if you give people high-quality reporting from across the spectrum of viewpoints at a price in line with other subscriptions, they will support you. The 11% isn’t the ceiling. It highlights that 89% of people want a better news service.
2. Most people only pay for one new subscription
Of the people who do pay for news, 70% only paid for one. That leaves them closed to many different opinions and perspectives. Reading only one news source gives you only a partial glimpse of the world as it is.
But it is expensive to pay for different subscriptions. News subscriptions are expensive anyway. Much more so than a monthly subscription to Spotify or Netflix is. Adding two or three of these to your monthly bills adds up quickly.
A better way is to take handpicked, curated stories from different perspectives and bring them together. That way people get real value. You boost the signal and ignore the noise.
3. Half of people in the US came across an unexpected paywall
We all find paywalls annoying. And we all find paywalls wherever you go on the internet. An interesting link on Twitter or Facebook, dressed up with an intriguing headline, just brings you to a page demanding your credit card information.
It tires people out and turns them off looking for news. It’ll just bring you to another paywall, so what’s the point. This fragmentation of the news experience is lousy for readers. And it stops people getting access to information they want and need.
4. People are concerned about fake news
With the help of the president of the USA, shouting ‘fake news’ has become something of a parody. But people are still concerned about it. With the proliferation and ease of setting up an online news site, it is becoming hard to know what to trust.
It used to be easy. You could trust what you heard on the radio, read in the paper or watched on the TV. Now, it isn’t. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone can spin the facts to their liking.
It is only by opening our eyes up to more and different sources of news that we can find the truth. That we can compare different takes and come to our own conclusions.
5. People don’t trust the news they read
People don’t even trust the news they read. Concerns about fake news are often directed at other people. Other people will be drawn in by the false stories, by the exaggerated facts. But half of people don’t trust even what they read.
Trust in journalism must be restored. If not, it will lead to a world divided between people who believe alternative facts. It is not a model for a just, prosperous society. Fixing the problem is a lot harder than articulating it. But by giving people access to diverse publications then we can make a start in rebuilding people’s trust in the media.
6. People don’t think the media does a good job of helping people understand the news
What is the point of news? It goes beyond just telling people what’s going. It’s about helping people understand the world around them. It is supposed to empower people. But 35% of people in the UK actively avoid news because it makes them feel powerless, because it puts them in a bad mood.
49% of people think the news doesn’t help people understand what’s going on. That is something that must get better. Curation is at centre of what we do at Mogul News and it is a way of making the world more understandable. Collecting articles together to give you the tools to get to grips with a complex topic, publishing only the most insightful and informative pieces of journalism. It’s how we contribute to a better media landscape.
7. Few people pay for news in the UK
Over the past decade we have seen many newspapers close. They shut down for one simple reason. People stopped paying for news. The rise of ad supported online news has made journalism more and more unsustainable.
A strong, sustainable and independent media is essential for a properly working society. The only way that it can be sustainable is if people pay for the news they consume.
Journalism will not be about attracting the greatest number of eyeballs, selling people’s attention to the highest bidder. It will be about serving the audience and giving readers the news they need.
8. Smartphones are the most popular way to get news
The world is changing. Print is no longer the dominant media through which we get our news. But the legacy of print still informs so much of how news is presented these days.
The way we watch movies, listen to music, talk to our friends has changed so much ever since the iPhone was released. Why should it be any different for how we get our news. With so many people using their smartphones to get their news, we think it is the right time to present news differently. To do it better.
9. People value entertainment over news subscriptions
People value news. But the way it is presented and packaged lags so far behind what is being done in other industries. People wouldn’t give up their news subscriptions because they don’t think news is important.
If you open up Spotify or Apple Music you have what seems like the whole world of music at your fingertips. Millions of tracks, thousands of artists, all right there, waiting to be listened to.
Any news app might present you with 200 stories a day. Most of which you don’t need to care about. But just as how news can be presented in a better way for the 21st century, the same can be done for how it is delivered. By giving people access to news that informs, that educates and news that comes from across the spectrum of opinion, it will be valued as much as a Spotify.
Though a new season of Stranger Things is coming out next month.
10. Digital is the most popular way people read news
If there is one thing you should take away from the Digital News Report it is that news is changing. The way people get and read their news is changing. People want a way to get their news that adds value. That informs them, gives them breadth and depth through reporting and empowers them to make the world a better place.
That’s why we built Mogul News. It’s news done for the 21st century. Because when the world changes, the way we learn about it must change too.
You can read the full Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019 here.