Reuters’ 2019 Digital News Report Reveals Less Trust than Ever in Media

08 Oct 2019

The news on the news isn’t heartening. Reuters Institute’s eighth annual digital news report surveys media consumption behavior in 38 American, European, African and Asian countries, finding the public to be unenthusiastic at best about news media.

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This year’s report revealed that only 42% of the public trusts the news overall, though people’s confidence in the particular sources of news they consume is greater – but  still only 49%. Self-identified conservatives are much more suspicious of the news, with as many as 91% expressing mistrust. 

Faith in the veracity of search engine and social media news is as low as 33% and 23%, respectively. Yet many people get their news from these sources.

Although 62% feel that the media do a good job of breaking the news, only 50% feel the media helps them understand what’s happening, and as many as 15% strongly disagree that media explains what they report. And not even a third of respondents consider that the media report anything relevant or interesting to them in particular.

39 % feel that the news is portrayed in an excessively negative manner. What’s more, given that many people find that the news makes them feel impotent to make any difference in the world, and it negatively affects their mood, just shy of a third of the respondents reported shunning the news entirely. That’s up six percentage points on average from the 2017 Report, with some countries increasing news avoidance twice as much. As many as 71% of the British are so fed up with Brexit that they periodically shun the news.

“A lot of the public is really alienated from a lot of the journalism that they see - they don’t find it particularly trustworthy, they don’t find it particularly relevant and they don’t find it leaves them in a better place,” summed up Reuters Institute Director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.

The younger their generation, the more likely people are to learn about news first from their mobile devices (45% Gen Z, 39% Millennial and 19% older cohorts), yet even the less-digital 35+ age group is twice as likely to see the news first on mobile than in print. 69% of digitally native Gen Z get most of their news from their smart phones, much of it on demand and personalized by algorithms. This younger cohort is also the most likely to download podcasts, which are growing in popularity. Still, even this most digital generation prefers text to video formats for news, with only 15% preferring mostly video.

Even people who are getting their news on devices are spending comparatively little time on news. Not a single news app made the top 25 in terms of time investment. Advertising revenues don’t sustain newsrooms anymore, as ads migrate to entertainment sites, so publishers must look for ways to monetize their services. Yet, the report identified the so-called “subscription fatigue,” which refers to the public’s reticence to pay for more than one news service. Even in the country with the greatest willingness to pay for news, Norway, the number falls short of a quarter. News aggregator services like Apple News + may respond to this fatigue in such a way as to provide more variety.