In Case You Missed It: Navigating news consumption with insights from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report

I’m taking a slightly different approach to ICYMI this week, focusing on one specific news item that has caught my eye. 

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report, launched last week, is a study based on research seeking to understand how news is being consumed across various countries. With 100,000 survey respondents in 47 markets, it’s about as comprehensive as it gets.

The context, of course, is that the way in which we consume news is changing hugely. We know this already. What this report makes clearer is the scale of this change, and the specifically the scale of the challenge facing publishers in attracting readers:  

  • Legacy social media platforms such as Facebook and X are actively reducing the prominence and role of news on their platforms and moving further away from a reliance on links driving referrals to publishers.  
  • A variety of other platforms are becoming increasingly popular and more important as ways for people to access, find, share and experience news. Visual and video-led platforms including TikTok Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp are all growing in importance. 
  • Conversely, only 22% of individuals surveyed identify news websites or apps as a key source of news.  
  • Tech companies also contribute to diverting readers’ attention. By competing to capture public attention, many of them are encouraging a growing number of creators, influencers and other individuals to post to their platforms. These ‘new’ voices are increasingly gaining the most attention from the public, sometimes overshadowing news sources.  
  • Rapid advances in AI are about to set in motion a further series of changes including AI-driven search interfaces and chatbots that could further reduce traffic flows to news websites and apps, adding further uncertainty to how information environments will look in a few years. 
  • There is a growing number of people selectively (and in some cases continuously) avoiding the news (39% of respondents said they sometimes or often avoid the news). 

This set of challenges, highlighted by Reuters, sums up well the challenging situation faced by publishers and journalists across the world. Indeed, they struggle to convince much of the public that the news they offer is trustworthy and worth paying attention to (let alone paying for). 

As Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director at the RISJ, says in his foreword, research documenting all of these challenges can make for uncomfortable reading. ‘Can’?! It certainly does make for uncomfortable reading. Whether you’re a publisher, a journalist, or anyone working in the news industry or indeed the PR industry, this picture certainly raises questions.  

Will certain sectors of media continue to exist in another 10 or however many years? Who knows. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Will the way in which we go about doing PR and media relations for our clients change significantly? Probably.  

The point is, none of us have all the answers, and that’s why it’s vital not to ignore research like this and not to bury our heads in the (PR) sand. At Tyto we have an ethos of perfect partnership. That means we need to understand and recognise what our journalist partners are dealing with. In taking pride in doing a fantastic job for our clients, it also means we need to continue to push ourselves to be ready for the future.  

Things I’ve taken away from this (let’s be honest, quite bleak) picture, are:   

  • Don’t forget the basics: Think. Consider. Make it relevant. Questions to ask ourselves might include: Will people honestly be interested in this story? Is it really news? Can we present this in a way that’s a bit more interesting for audiences? Are we pushing ourselves to think outside of our comfort zones and experiment with some new formats and platforms?  
  • Trust is paramount – what shone through from not only this report but also the Muck Rack and Cision ‘State of’ Media and Journalism reports which I blogged about a few weeks ago is that issues around fake news and disinformation are top concerns for readers and publishers alike. In this context, being able to provide third party experts and genuine thought leaders with amazing backgrounds and experience still counts for a lot.

We must consider different approaches, different platforms and different formats: 

  • The report finds a strong shift towards video-based content – 66% access short news videos every week 
  • It also finds an increasingly fragmenting picture in terms of the platforms people are using to access and engage with news. Ten years ago, only two platforms dominated; now there are at least six platforms in the mix. 
  • Let’s give readers some light relief! The report suggests that journalists are “focusing too much on top news stories and not enough time providing different perspectives on stories that can provide the basis for occasional optimism”. We can probably all agree with this, but now the data is telling us it is so. People want a break; they want to read for enjoyment. We must keep prioritising creativity and coming up with interesting angles, personal stories and different perspectives.  
  • And finally, to end on a positive note: podcasts. The report found that podcasting remains a bright spot for publishers – across 20% of countries, just over a third access a podcast monthly. 

These are just a few takeaways from a report which provides a lot of food for thought. We’d love to know your take on this ever-changing picture; do drop us a line and let us know your thoughts.