All the data you can eat
Umbilical Ruminations

We read more news, and we may be starting to trust it more too

Adam Oxford
Adam Oxford

We’re still poring over all the details of the annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report, which was released this week. It’s a big document – the result of 80 000 interviews in 40 different countries, examining the attitudes and habits of audiences towards news brands. The positive findings are that people are consuming a lot of news right now. Coronavirus has driven people to broadcast and online media in droves, and quality coverage has earned respect. The main January poll showed trust in media at a low – only 38% of people said they trust news most of the time, the lowest number since the report was first published. An April follow-up, however, ranked news organisations as the fourth most reliable source of information – ahead of national government.

South Africa and Kenya are the only countries featured from Africa, and the Reuters report suggests that the general public in both countries have a relatively high degree of respect for media, ranking them seventh and sixth for trust globally. Around half of the people in both countries say they trust media overall – which is depressing – but a look at the brand scores is a bit more positive. Most of the best known nationals score very highly – even IOL ranks above 60% for trustworthiness. This compares well for publishers when you look at , say, Taiwan. There, only the state broadcaster edges over 50%.

One other heartwarming observation is that outside of the US, people say they prefer their news to be non-biased. Stateside, however, the number of people who want news to reflect their own views has risen by 6% (a trend seen on both left and right sides of the political spectrum).

The not-so-good news is that even though audiences have gone up as countries have become locked down, long term concerns about revenue and business models persist. Richer countries like the US and the Nordics are doing well when it comes to putting on subscribers – the last great hope of the news industry – but the pattern that’s emerging is that “winner-takes-most”. Big news brands are piling on the payers – smaller ones are still struggling.

Which brings us back to our regular point – if you value the future of journalism, take out a subscription to your favourite online outlet. It might seem small, but it could literally save them.

Read the full report here.

Adam Oxford
  • Adam Oxford is a freelance journalist, media consultant and civic tech enthusiast. He also works closely with startups developing solutions to access to justice problems.

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