Ten trends from 2018 Digital News Report

Adam Batstone

Every year a group of former journalists and academics examine global trends in digital journalism. Their report is increasingly influential – here are 10 of the key findings identified in 2018.

1: More people are prepared to pay for quality news content than before.

The popular narrative had been that the economics of news were damaged beyond repair as people were no longer prepared to pay for news.  This meant expensive things like, experienced reporters and in depth research were no longer viable. The research shows this is no longer the case.

2: Social media as a source of news is declining.

The Fake News and Cambridge Analytica scandals showed that the big tech companies are nervous that their brands could be undermined if people lose trust in the content they supply . Google, Facebook and Twitter are changing their algorithms to push trusted news brands higher up their results.

3: Messaging apps are becoming a popular source of news.

More people are using services like WhatsApp, Telegram and SnapChat to communicate with groups and individuals and to share content including news stories. Links shared from a trusted individual or group are more likely to be opened – and believed.

4: The global level of trust in the media has remained steady in the past year.

Despite grave predictions that the digital wild frontier had destroyed credibility in news and journalism, the survey of people in 27 developed countries showed basic levels of trust remain unchanged.

5: The impact of Fake News has been felt more in the USA.

The term Fake News was included in dictionaries in 2017, but the phenomenon has not fundamentally changed attitudes. Only in the US (and Latin America) has Fake News damaged credibility in mainstream journalism – presumably because the President uses the term freely to dismiss stories he dislikes.

6: People who consider themselves ‘news literate’ prefer newspapers.

People that follow the news most closely value newspapers more than other media. There is a perception that newspapers break the news and other channels follow. Sophisticated readers say they can distinguish between facts, propaganda and spin.

7: Newsletters, email and text alerts are valued but should not be over-used

The report confirms the view that information from a trusted name or brand is highly valued. But the volume of messages being sent risks undermining that trust. No one likes spam and therefore the mantra of ‘fewer better’ should inform decisions about sending to a mailing list.

8:  The ‘Trump Bump’ effect has seen news subscriptions go up in the USA

Interest in Donald Trump and people’s desire to read news about him that they believe and trust has led to a big spike in subscriptions and sales of quality journalism titles like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

9:  TV and radio remain the most trusted news sources in the world

In almost every country that was included in the survey, TV and radio was ranked top for trustworthiness. In the UK BBC News is a benchmark of reliable news, followed by ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. Quality newspapers and local media are trusted but the tabloids and digital news sources rank very low.

10: Podcasts and voice-activated devices are changing the way we consume news

The rapid growth of technology and digital devices are changing the way we get the news. The survey showed that more people (33% in the USA and 18% in the UK) regularly listen to podcasts and devices like Amazon’s Alexa are changing how we get the news. If you ask: “Alexa what are the news headlines?” how confident are you that what she tells you is true?

All the data contained in this blog is from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018