6 takeaways from this year’s Digital News Report - Reuters News Agency

6 takeaways from this year’s Digital News Report

Focus on mobile devices, a tendency towards messaging Apps and willingness to pay for news.

Aug 29, 2018

The only constant in news is change. This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report not only shows a decline in the usage of Facebook for news but also a rise in subscriptions. In addition, the question of trust in the media is still under discussion.

Let’s have a look at some of the key takeaways you need to be aware of…

1. Gaining trust: Fact-checking alone is not enough

“Tribalism in media consumption is becoming more pronounced” as Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post said during the Reuters Memorial Lecture. According to the report’s findings, people have greater trust in the news brand they use the most. Thus, the report’s researchers see a need for more inclusive reporting by reflecting different opinions.

Increase your audience by covering diverse news content with Reuters Newswire and by knowing what your audience is interested in with Reuters polling.

2. Willingness to pay for news: Which way is best for you?

In times of rising ‘fact-checking’ departments or newsletters, such as the fact-checking newsletter by The Washington Post, the report’s findings see a demand for high-quality journalism by the audience. Which is why they are willing to pay for it as well. Next to subscriptions and memberships, media companies seem to go either with paywalls or donations. The most suitable choice appears to differ among countries.

Independent media in Spain has been relying on donation models for years, as well as NPR in the US. In the UK, The Guardian reminds its readers at the end of each article that their “independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce” and and asks for an unfixed donation. Germany and Austria favor paywalls. Newspapers in Norway, however, prefer a hybrid-paywall where a non-subscriber accesses a limited number of articles.The report found the highest rise of subscriptions in Scandinavia, which might be linked to their close relationship to the audience.

3. Gateway to the news has changed: Side-door access preferred

Facebook use for news is declining while more users focus on alternative apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. In the United States News consumption via Facebook is down 9 percent. Especially among the younger audience where the report found a decrease of 20 percent. Discussing a news topic openly on Facebook engenders feelings of vulnerability among younger audiences.

“Even though you may disagree with your friend on WhatsApp, friends are able to keep that good level of respect, everybody shares their opinion, and anyone who disagrees can joke about it. It’s a lighter mood to debate news with friends on WhatsApp than on Facebook”, explains a young man from one of the survey groups. Sharing their views on WhatsApp with their closest friends offers a safer environment.

Media companies in Latin American and Brazil have used this move to experiment with “Broadcasting lists” newsgroups, quizzes, and audio notes. Others have adopted new tactics , such as “Instagram stories”. While WhatsApp and Instagram are thriving in Latin America and parts of Asia, Snapchat relentlessly vies for dominance in Europe and the US.

4. Focus on mobile phone! Send out mobile alerts!

The smartphone has overtaken the computer as the preferred device to access news. This is a significant shift, giving rise to an increase in the use of mobile alerts. This feature is prevalent among the young audiences who start their days perusing content in the lock screen.

Publishers are wary of fatiguing their audiences with  too many or duplicate alerts. Yet, the majority of users (65%) feel they are getting the right amount by an overall average of 4.2 across markets per day. Also, under 35s seem to prefer accessing the news on a smartphone and through social platforms, another reason why you should consider optimizing your content for mobile.

5. Videos! More or less? And where?

There is a demographic distinction when it comes to video news consumption. In Asia, the consumption of online videos has doubled, while in northern European countries there seems to be a preference towards reading.

Yet, watching online videos has increased over the years when using native video formats by social media platforms. Over half of the consumption of online news videos happens in third-party environments, such as Instagram or Snapchat.

6. Don’t underestimate Podcasts!

Easier distribution has made podcasts more popular all over the world,specially in countries with heavy car usage as in the US or commuting areas. Voice-activated digital assistants have significantly boosted the growth of news for audio. While the older generation shows loyalty towards the radio, the under 35s listen to twice as many podcasts.

Check out The Telegraph’s experiences with audio news.


The shift towards private spaces to discuss political topics and the greater focus of the audience on apps such as Instagram requires a new way of storytelling. These could be spotlighting vertical videos and podcasts for mobile.

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