This year’s Digital News Report highlights the challenges faced by the journalism industry in a time of global emergencies. Low levels of trust, declining audience engagement, and an uncertain business environment hinder accurate and independent journalism.
One of the most significant findings in this year’s report is the changing landscape of social media, with declining engagement on traditional networks like Facebook and the rise of TikTok and video-led platforms. Despite concerns about misinformation and algorithms, the reliance on these intermediaries continues to grow, particularly among younger generations who pay more attention to influencers and celebrities than journalists.
Here we have gathered some of the most important findings:
- Global emergencies, including the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, have expedited the transformation towards digital, mobile, and platform-centric media landscapes, leading to significant impacts on the business models and formats of journalism.
- In various markets, the preference for starting news journeys directly through websites or apps has declined, representing a 10% decrease since 2018. While some publishers in smaller Northern European markets have managed to defy this trend, the younger generation prefers accessing news through social media, search engines, or mobile aggregators.
- While Facebook remains one of the most-used social networks, its influence on journalism is diminishing as it shifts its focus away from news content. At the same time, Facebook now encounters fresh competition from video-oriented platforms like YouTube and TikTok. In specific, TikTok has a reach of 44% among individuals aged 18-24 across various markets, with a 20% engagement rate for news. Its growth is especially rapid in regions such as Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America.
- When it comes to news, people pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, rather than journalists. However, on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, news media and journalists remain at the forefront of discussions.
- Many people have doubts about the algorithms used by search engines, social media platforms, and other websites to decide what news they see. Less than a third (30%) believe that having news stories selected for them based on their previous interests is a good way to receive news. However, on average, users still slightly prefer news chosen by algorithms (27%) over news chosen by editors or journalists. This suggests that concerns about algorithms are part of a larger worry about how news is selected.
- Contrary to expectations that the internet would encourage broader democratic discussions, the report highlights a decrease in the number of people engaging with online news compared to the recent past. In particular, only about 22% are currently actively participating in online news, while 47% are not participating at all.
- Trust in the news has decreased by 2% in the past year, erasing the gains that were made during the peak of the pandemic in several countries. On average, four out of ten people express trust in most news most of the time. Finland maintains the highest level of overall trust (69%), while Greece (19%) has the lowest trust, following a year marked by intense debates concerning press freedom and media independence.
- Public media brands are highly trusted in many Northern European countries, but their reach has been declining among younger audiences. As the report discovered, this is significant because those who use these services more often, tend to view them as personally important and important for society as a whole. These findings highlight the importance of maintaining a broad reach for public service media to ensure future credibility, particularly among younger generations.
- The consumption of traditional media like TV and print is declining in most markets, and online and social media consumption is not compensating for this decrease. Data reveals that online news consumers are accessing news less frequently compared to previous times and their interest in news is also declining. Even though people face political and economic challenges, 48% of the overall sample express a high level of interest in news, which is a decrease from 63% back in 2017.
- At the same time, the percentage of news consumers who admit to avoiding the news, either often or sometimes, remains close to the highest levels ever recorded at 36% across different markets. The report discovered that this group can be divided into two categories: (a) those who periodically avoid all news sources and (b) those who deliberately limit their news consumption at certain times or for specific topics. As Nic Newman points out ‘News avoiders are more likely to say they are interested in positive or solutions-based journalism and less interested in the big stories of the day'.
- As household budgets face constraints and a significant portion of the public feels satisfied with accessing news for free, there are indications that the growth of online news payments may be leveling out. In a selection of 20 wealthier countries, 17% of individuals paid for any online news, which remains the same as last year. Norway has the highest proportion of people paying for online news (39%), while Japan and the United Kingdom have some of the lowest rates (9%). Among those who canceled their subscriptions in the past year, the cost of living or the high price was cited most frequently as the reason. In the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, approximately half of the non-subscribers assert that nothing could persuade them to pay for online news, with a lack of interest or perceived value serving as fundamental barriers.
- Similar to previous years, a significant portion of digital subscriptions are obtained by a few prestigious national brands. This reinforces the trend where a small number of brands dominate the digital media landscape. However, in several countries, including the United States, a shift where the majority of paying subscribers are opting for multiple subscriptions, is observed. As seen in the report, this can possibly be due to the availability of discounted offers and the introduction of all-access bundles in certain markets.
- In most countries, the majority of online users prefer reading the news rather than watching or listening to it. Reading allows for quicker access to information and greater control, but in some countries like the Philippines and Thailand, respondents now prefer video over text. Video news consumption has been consistently increasing across markets, with a significant portion of video content being accessed through third-party platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
- News podcasting continues to appeal to educated and younger audiences, although it remains a relatively niche activity overall. Approximately 34% of individuals access podcasts on a monthly basis, with 12% tuning into news and current affairs shows. The report reveals that in terms of popularity across markets, deep dive podcasts (like The Daily from the New York Times) and extended chat shows (such as The Joe Rogan Experience) are the most widely consumed. Additionally, there is a rising trend in the popularity of video-led or hybrid news podcasts.
Key highlights for Greece
based on results presented by Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Free University Brussels (VUB)
- Trust in news experienced a significant decline, attributed to concerns about the political and business influence on journalism. Greece has the lowest proportion of respondents (19%) trusting news among the 46-market sample.
- The media market in Greece is characterized by digital fragmentation and high reliance on social media for news consumption.
- Press freedom discussions intensified after Greece's decline in the press freedom index, with the government and opposition engaging in a heated exchange.
- The conviction of a former government minister and a businessman for illegal interference in the TV licensing auction further fueled perceptions of undue political and business influence in Greek media.
- Public outrage following the Tempi train crash in March 2023 revealed criticism of commercial broadcasters and TV journalists for biased coverage.
- The digital media market in Greece remains highly fragmented, with Greek respondents using numerous news sources and relying on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for news updates.
- Television audiences in Greece are divided among nine commercial and public national broadcasters, with most news programs struggling to attract significant viewership.
- The print news market in Greece is small, with many national newspapers experiencing low readership and financial losses.
- The revelation of illegal surveillance of prominent figures led to resignations and legal actions, highlighting the effectiveness of consistent and thorough reporting by niche outlets in uncovering major scandals.
- Greek investigative reporting faces challenges such as limited resources, lack of editorial freedom, and partisan motivations.
While some individual news brands have seen success in building online reach or subscription numbers, these advancements remain fragile in the face of economic and political uncertainty, audience fragmentation, and platform disruption.
Moreover, growth prospects are severely challenged by rising costs, falling revenues, and unpredictable social network traffic. Looking ahead, shifts in audience behavior driven by younger demographics are expected, favoring more accessible and entertaining news formats delivered by influencers within platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. However, the convenience and aggregating power of platforms continue to overshadow direct access to news content.
Additionally, news consumers are increasingly overwhelmed and fatigued, leading to selective news avoidance. Amidst these challenges, journalism must strive to restore relevance and trust by meeting the specific needs of audiences through accurate, useful, and human-centered reporting. It will be crucial to adapt and build relationships beyond traditional websites and apps, leveraging other platforms and channels to provide valuable information in exchange for attribution and potential financial support.
As publishers navigate this landscape, embracing innovation, flexibility, and an unwavering focus on the audience will be key ingredients for success. The ongoing war in Ukraine and resulting economic shocks have further prompted publishers to accelerate their transition to digital, embracing new business models, storytelling approaches, and distribution methods. With various paths to explore, the industry must remain adaptable and relentlessly attentive to audience demands.