The Reuters Institute recently published its annual Digital News Report. The top line findings were very interesting. We’ve been able to pore over the study’s raw data tables. From our analysis, we’re sharing six insights. Some reinforce conventional wisdom, others turn it on its head.
1. Established media brands dominate
The conversation about news for the past year or so has focused on social media and the spread of fake news. Social media has a strong presence in news distribution with two in five people using it in the last week as a source of news. However, marginally more people use the websites and apps of TV and radio companies as a source of news. The third most used sources are the websites and apps of newspapers. In short, established media brands dominate online news.
2. The BBC dominates most of all
And the BBC dominates more than any other. Online, 51% of British adults use BBC News. Offline, the domination is equally strong, the most used traditional source of news is BBC TV News. The second most used traditional source is BBC Radio News.
To understand quite how dominant the BBC is, it’s worth noting that BBC TV News is watched by more than twice as many people as ITV News and three times as many as Sky News.
3. People really don’t like online ads but blocking isn’t the huge problem publishers feared
Unsurprisingly, people hate online ads. Three in five (59%) think the ads on news sites are intrusive. Only one in 11 (9%) disagree.
Despite this, only about a quarter (22%) of British adults are currently using ad blockers. Even better news for publishers is that of this group, three in five (60%) have temporarily switched off their ad blocker. Moreover, the vast majority of ad blocking occurs on computers, whereas the trend for online news consumption is mobile first.
4. Social media is dominated by Facebook Inc
Moving onto social media, Facebook Inc dominates massively. Of the social networks listed in the study only two of the seven most popular are not part of Mark Zuckerberg’s online empire. It’s worth noting that its two messaging apps, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, are used more than Twitter. In the broader context of news on social media, this is not good for Twitter.
5. Facebook Inc dominates social news too
More British adults source news from Facebook than any other social media network. While nearly three in 10 (29%) use Facebook, only about one in eight (12%) use Twitter.
Much was made when the report was launched of the power of messaging apps as news sources. The numbers are startling in other markets, in the UK only one in twenty (5%) adults get news from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. This number is likely to grow but that growth isn’t rapid. Back in 2015, the same study found 3% of British adults using WhatsApp as a news source.
6. Twitter is a news source, Facebook is news discovery
The question of whether stumble upon or seek out news is perhaps the most interesting. Twitter is becoming a news feed. More people (7%) think of it as a useful way of getting news than those who say they tend to find news on Twitter while using it for other things (5%).
Conversely, news discovery on Facebook is more serendipitous. One in five (20%) adults mostly see news on Facebook while using it for other reasons. Only about one in 12 (8%) think of Facebook as a useful way of getting news.
We’re happy to meet to discuss further findings
At Evolving Influence, we think it’s important to go beyond the top line and understand how people consume, discover and share news. We’re poring through the data tables from this, as well as looking at data from Ofcom and other sources. If you’d like to learn more about what we’ve learnt, we’d be happy to meet for a coffee and a chat.