Earlier today the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released its Digital News Report 2020, an annual study jam-packed with data on the state of, and developments within the global news media sector. Needless to say, this year’s edition is particularly interesting, as the report reflects some of the ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis on the news media sector. While most of the data for the study was collected before the crisis hit globally, the Reuters Institute repeated parts of its work in survey early April, in 6 countries: UK, USA, Germany, Spain, South Korea and Argentina, which gives us a snapshot of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
The study shows that the COVID-19 crisis caused a significant increase of news consumption, in particular for televised news and online news. It also suggests that the consumption of printed newspapers has fallen, as due to the lockdown regimes in various countries the distribution chains for printed news products were hampered.
The study also shows that the use of online and social media increased, even though the trust in social media was less than half that of news organisations. Four in ten respondents even labelled information through social media and messaging apps as untrustworthy.
While media usage habits changed significantly during the crisis there’s some doubt as to how permanent these changes are as for example the increased levels of interest in news consumption may simmer down. On the other hand, the report suggests that the crisis is likely to have an accelerating effect on the digitalization of the news media sector. And while in most countries the media played a supportive role for citizens in finding information on the coronavirus and how to deal with it, the increased trust in news media is not likely to remain.
The data suggests an increase in the percentage paying for any online news in a number of markets – including a jump of four percentage points in the United States to 20% and eight points in Norway to 42%. However, a large number of people remain perfectly content with the news they can access for free and we observe a very high proportion of non-subscribers (40% in the US and 50% in the UK) who say that nothing could persuade them to pay, which suggests that publishers should deploy a variety of business models, including advertising-based models, to monitise their content.
The full report can be found here.