The Reuters Digital News Report Is a Bright Spot in a Sea of Media Gloom

Reuters just released their 2024 Digital News Report, a comprehensive look at the state of the online news industry.

It’s not great.

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We gave the Reuters report a read and came away with a few interesting takeaways that should give all of us in media pause. That said, the report isn’t horrific — it probably doesn’t behoove Reuters to Chicken Little us all at this point — but it’s also troubling. Let’s go through some of the salient points.

First, there’s a notable decline in using Facebook for news. If you’ve scrolled through Facebook at all in the last year you’ll notice that general news is all but gone, replaced by “content” like Reels and group interactions. In the 12 markets Reuters tracked over the last decade, Facebook usage for news has dropped from 42% to 26% since 2016. People are increasingly turning to alternatives like messaging apps and video networks to get their news.

Reuters Institute Digital News Report

That’s right: kids are getting their news from TikTok. Video is becoming a more important source of online news, especially for younger audiences. Short videos are accessed by 66% of our global sample, with longer formats attracting around 51%.

The report also highlights the rise of new news creators. The bad news? The report notes that these “journalists” are “mostly male hosts armed with oversized microphones talking to mostly male guests.” For example, Hugo Travers, AKA Hugo Decrypte, publishes explainer videos on TikTok and YouTube that are more cited by respondents than traditional French publishers like Le Monde or Le Figaro. Like the blogger before them, the influencer has become the new source of news. And, just like traditional news media’s reaction to blogging, long form writers will have to come to terms with the new normal.

Next the report talks about misinformation. Concern about online misinformation has increased by 3 points in the past year, with 59% of people worried about it. TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) are the platforms with the highest concern, which isn’t surprising. Finally, fear of misinformation via AI is growing. In fact, as publishers start using AI, there is widespread public suspicion about its use, especially for hard news stories. Basically, people are worried that the news they read is written by AI and that the human is left out. One respondent said “The best thing is to try to keep the use of AI to facts, numbers, statistics, and not analysis or opinion, where more context needs to be given. That is where humans are needed, to provide that value.”

Reuters Institute Digital News Report

Finally, people aren’t paying for news. Only 17% of people say they paid for news online. Norway (40%) and Sweden (31%) have the highest subscription rates, while Japan (9%) and the UK (8%) have the lowest. Many countries show evidence of heavy discounting and falling subscriptions.

The report about journalism is highlighting something important about traditional journalism: it is becoming less relevant and useful to people worldwide. While the industry struggles with economic challenges and platform changes, the main problem is the lack of enthusiasm for traditional journalism.

The global media industry faces a significant task in product development. Journalism must become more relevant, participatory, personalized, and engaging to compete with platforms like Netflix, Spotify, and popular influencers on TikTok. How we do that — and how we use AI for these needs — is an exercise for you, the reader.

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