Sharp Decline in Appetite for News in Recent Years, Reuters Institute says

The number of people taking a strong interest in the news has dropped by around a quarter in the last six years, a global study suggests.

A report by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute says 48% of people around the world are very or extremely interested in the news – down from 63% in 2017.

In the UK, the proportion is lower than the global average at 43%.

More than a third of people (36%) worldwide say they sometimes or often actively avoid the news.

The authors of the institute’s report said there was evidence that audiences “continue to selectively avoid important stories such as the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis as they cut back on depressing news and look to protect their mental health”.

The Digital News Report 2023 also concluded that traditional TV and print news media are continuing to decline, while “online consumers are accessing news less frequently than in the past and are also becoming less interested”.

Four in 10 people (40%) say they trust most news most of the time, down two percentage points compared with last year.

In the UK, the BBC was the most trusted news brand, followed by Channel 4 and ITV.

The research also reported that more than half (56%) of those surveyed worry about identifying what news is real and fake online – up two percentage points.

Rise of TikTok

The most important social media platform for news is still Facebook, although it is in long-term decline, with the number accessing it each week for news dropping from 42% to 28% over the past seven years.

Facebook has also downgraded news. It says less than 3% of its news feed these days is traditional news stories. The tweaking of the algorithm over recent years has been catastrophic for some organisations that relied on its traffic.

In the UK, 41% of 18 to 24-year-olds say social media is their main source of news (43% across all countries), up from 18% in 2015.

TikTok and Instagram have both seen increases in use. Instagram is now a source of news for 14% of people, with TikTok on 6%.

Someone using TikTok on their phone
Image caption,TikTok is the survey’s fastest growing social network, used by a fifth of 18-24-year-olds for news

But the figures are much higher for young users. One in five (20%) 18 to 24-year-olds get news from TikTok, up from 15% last year. The report says the platform “is the fastest growing social network in our survey”.

However, it is not necessarily news from traditional news providers. TikTok users are more likely to get news on the platform from celebrities, influencers or ordinary creators than mainstream news outlets or journalists.

Reuters Institute director Rasmus Neilsen said: “Younger generations increasingly eschew direct discovery for all but the most appealing brands.

“They have little interest in many conventional news offers oriented towards older generations’ habits, interests, and values, and instead embrace the more personality-based, participatory, and personalised options offered by social media, often looking beyond legacy platforms to new entrants.”

Liking, sharing and commenting about news on open social media platforms is also in decline.

Only around 10% of people in the UK are classed as “active participants” – they are largely male, old, have strong political views and are more highly educated than the rest of the population.

One reason suggested for the change is a growing sense that online conversations on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly toxic.

However, while the sharing of articles and engagement time may have dropped, it doesn’t mean such sites are being deserted.

Twitter made headlines after it was bought by Elon Musk, but the number of people using the site each week appears to have has barely changed. There is, Reuters said, no evidence of a mass movement to rivals such as Mastodon.

Source: BBC

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