The Reuters Digital News Report was released last week, it’s the usual collection of insightful research and sage analysis.
Despite Mark Thompson’s warning that ‘winter is coming’ for the world’s news publishers as they seek to ensure profitability, there are some positive findings in the report.
Notable is the ability for traditional news brands to cut through the noise of social media, despite the inherent challenges of distributed news.
‘Social entry’ to news is increasing
The continuing rise of mobile and social media is circumventing branded entry to news (53% access news on a smartphone and 51% use social as a news source).
As a result, 2016 has seen an increase in the proportion of consumers hitting article pages direct from social (up from 21% to 28%), rather than visiting a news brand via its own app or website (down from 49% to 41%).
Brands get lost in aggregators
This trend of distributed news is shown in the high percentage of users that access news via aggregators such as Flipboard or Yahoo (59%), and via social media (49%).
When news is aggregated, the study shows that many fail to notice the news brand that supplied the content (see the chart below were the figure is around half in the US).
This affect is particularly noticeable in markets with dominant and trusted aggregators, such as Naver in Korea, which reaches 66% of news consumers and where only 24% of users notice the source news brand.
But consumers want to choose their own sources (and worry about algorithms)
Despite the challenges presented above, people seem to want to be their own editors – 57% of those using aggregators do so in order to view a variety of news sources.
And respondents were a little unsure about curatorial algorithms and the concept of automatically personalised news.
Though the figure that were happy with news automatically selected based on previous reading (36%) was higher than those happy with ‘manual’ editors doing the job (30%), both figures were significantly higher than the 22% happy for friends’ choices to influence news selection (a la social media).
Furthermore, the majority of respondents from the EU and USA are worried about personalised news if it means missing key information or challenging viewpoints (see chart below).
And BBC News shows how traditional brands cut through
Though trust in news varies by country, ‘affluent Western European and Scandinavian countries with a mix of strong, well-funded public service broadcasters and commercial players scored highly’.
BBC News is a particularly striking example, with 70% of all BBC News users deeming it as their main source of news.
Only 13% of HuffPo and BuzzFeed users deem it to be their main news source. This disparity is also seen when comparing the MailOnline with these newer digital brands.
News is a vital part of why people use social media, and the majority still notice the source of that news.
Despite the influence of new platforms and algortihms, the Reuters report refers to traditional news brands as providing ‘signal in the noise’.
As Facebook cracks down on clickbait, looking at measures such as reading time, rather than simple Likes, quality journalism can remain the differentiator.
However, as digital-born publishers ramp up their newsrooms and monetisation remains a thorny issue, there’s ultimately not too much succour to be found.