21 July 2012

News Delivery

The 64 page Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2012 [PDF], based on a multi-nation online survey for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, suggests that "social media is now beginning to rival search as a gateway to news" and that social network services (eg Facebook) and email continue to be more important mechanisms for the delivery of news than Twitter.

Supposedly around 20% of UK respondents said they "share news stories each week via email or social networks", with 55% of that cohort (ie a bit over 10% of the UK respondents)  shared a news link via Facebook within the past week. 33% had shared a link to news by email, against 23% via Twitter.
Twenty per cent, (one in five), now come across a news story via a social network, whereas 30% use search. Younger people are more likely to use social media rather than search to discover news – whereas for older groups it is the other way round. Email was found to be a popular choice with the over 45s (51%), while Facebook (71%) and Twitter (24%) "are the natural choice for young people" with only 10% of young people sharing news by email.
Key findings claimed by the Institute are that -
  • There are significant differences in how regularly people keep up with the news across our surveyed countries. Almost 9 in 10 Germans access the news at least once a day compared with only 3 in 4 people in the United Kingdom. 
  •  The rapid switch from print to digital in the United States is not being replicated exactly in European countries. Germany is showing the strongest allegiance to traditional viewing and reading habits and has the lowest levels of internet news use. 
  • Online is the most frequently accessed form of news for young internet users – with television remaining most popular for older groups. In general those who’ve grown up with the internet are showing markedly different consumption habits online. They discover and share more news through social networks and show less loyalty to traditional media platforms. 
  • Smartphones are starting to play a significant role in the consumption of news. One-third of Danish internet users access news stories via a connected mobile every week. More than a quarter of those in the US and UK do the same.
  • The tablet is emerging as an important device for news consumers. Of tablet owners, 58% use the device to access news every week in the UK. They access a larger range of sources than other users, are more likely to pay for news content and over 40% say they find the experience better than a PC. In the UK, we find that some newspaper brands with paid apps do significantly better on a tablet than on the open internet – in terms of overall market share. 
  • More widely, consumers remain resistant to paying for news in digital form. Propensity to pay for online news is lowest in the UK (4%) compared to the other markets and highest in Denmark (12%). 
  • One in five of our UK sample share news stories each week via email or social networks – but in general Europeans are less enthusiastic than Americans about both the sharing of news and other forms of digital participation. 
  • In the UK, news about politics is perceived to be less important – and celebrity news more important – compared to the other countries surveyed. 
  • There is more interest in business and especially economic news in the UK and the US than in the European countries surveyed. 
  • A relatively small number of people are disproportionately important in the creation, consumption, and distribution of news. We’ve identified a small group of news absorbed users in the UK who access significantly more sources of news, are more likely to comment on news, and twice as likely to share news. 
  • The level of interest in foreign news in Britain is lower than in most of our comparator countries. Only 48% of British people place foreign news in their top five areas of interest, and this compares with 65% in Denmark, 64% in Germany, and 54% in France. The level of interest in the US, at 44%, is closest to that in the UK. If one were to assume that interest in foreign news might be correlated with levels of overseas diplomatic and military activity in each of the countries then the low US figure seems surprising, particularly alongside the very high Danish one. But interest in foreign news may also reflect people’s sense of interconnectedness, the degree to which affairs abroad are likely to impact on them directly, or for which they feel some affinity, as much as any direct relation with their government’s degree of foreign engagement.
Are the findings persuasive? Online polling was conducted by YouGov across five countries in April 2012. The Institute states that -
This is an online survey – and as such the results will under-represent older people's consumption habits, namely use of newspapers and TV.  It also excludes people who said they are not interested in news at all which in most countries was more than 10 per cent. All countries used the same methodology to allow for valid comparisons. Within our sample there were targets set on age and gender, region, newspaper readership, and social grade to accurately reflect the total population who are also online.