The report focuses on the issues of trust in the era of fake news, changing business models and the role of platforms.
This year’s report comes amid intense soul-searching in the news industry about fake news, failing business models, and the power of platforms. And yet our research casts new and surprising light on some of the prevailing narratives around these issues.
The internet and social media may have exacerbated low trust and ‘fake news’, but we find that in many countries the underlying drivers of mistrust are as much to do with deep-rooted political polarisation and perceived mainstream media bias.
Echo chambers and filter bubbles are undoubtedly real for some, but we also find that – on average – users of social media, aggregators, and search engines experience more diversity than non-users.
With data covering more than 30 countries and five continents, this research is a reminder that the digital revolution is full of contradictions and exceptions. Countries started in different places, and are not moving at the same pace. These differences are captured in individual country pages that can be found towards the end of this report. They contain critical industry context written by experts – as well as key charts and data points.
Some of the key findings from our 2017 research:
- Growth in social media for news is flattening out in some markets, as messaging apps that are (a) more private and (b) tend not to filter content algorithmically are becoming more popular.
- Only a quarter (24%) of our respondents think social media do a good job in separating fact from fiction, compared to 40% for the news media. The qualitative data suggest that users feel the combination of a lack of rules and viral algorithms are encouraging low quality and ‘fake news’ to spread quickly.
- There are wide variations in trust across our 36 countries. The proportion that says they trust the news is highest in Finland (62%), but lowest in Greece and South Korea (23%).
- In most countries, there is a strong connection between distrust in the media and perceived political bias. This is particularly true in countries with high levels of political polarisation like the United States, Italy, and Hungary.
- Almost a third of our sample (29%) say they often or sometimes avoid the news. For many, this is because it can have a negative effect on mood. For others, it is because they can’t rely on news to be true.
- Mobile marches on, outstripping computer access for news in an increasing number of countries. Mobile news notifications have grown significantly in the last year, especially in the US (+8 percentage points), becoming an important new route to content and giving a new lease of life to news apps.
- In a related development there has been a significant growth in mobile news aggregators, notably Apple News, but also Snapchat Discover for younger audiences. Both have doubled usage with their target groups in the last year.
- Smartphones are now as important for news inside the home as outside. More smartphone users now access news in bed (46%) than use the device when commuting to work.
- Voice-activated digital assistants like the Amazon Echo are emerging as a new platform for news, already outstripping smart watches in the US, UK, and Germany.
- In terms of online news subscriptions, the report sees a very substantial ‘Trump bump’ in the US (from 9 to 16%) along with a tripling of news donations. Most of those new payments have come from the young – a powerful corrective to the idea that young people are not prepared to pay for online media, let alone news.
- Ad-blocking growth has stalled on desktop (21%) and remains low on smartphones (7%). Over half say they have temporarily disabled their ad-blocker for news in countries like Poland (57%), Denmark (57%), and the United States (52%).