The Reuters Institute Digital News Report is based on a survey of more than 20,000 people in 12 countries, making it the largest ongoing comparative study of news consumption in the world. This year’s edition makes for very interesting reading.
The data reflects “a quickening of the pace towards social and mobile news, a decline in desktop internet, and significant growth in video news consumption online.” It also presents “compelling evidence about the central role being played by smartphones and a sharp increase in the use of social media for finding, sharing, and discussing the news.”
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report.
The Rise of Mobile
Mobile devices are quickly becoming the main way online users access information, and news consumption is no exception. According to this report, mobile is the main source of news for 25% of respondents and 41% of under 35s, with 46% of survey participants saying they access news via mobile on a weekly basis.
This report reflects the increasingly significant role social media plays in news consumption, with Facebook being the dominant network. On average, 41% of survey respondents use Facebook for news each week, while Facebook referrals to top news sites have risen by 42% in a single year.
To App or not to App?
Now for something surprising. Despite the fact that 70% of survey respondents say they have downloaded a news app; people in most countries say they are more likely to access news via a mobile browser. The only country that goes against this trend is the UK; where no fewer than 51% of smartphone news users access the BBC News app on a regular basis.
Changing Attitudes towards Sponsored Brand Content
This is arguably the most poignant takeaway of all. In one of many insightful essays at the end of the report, Shaun Austin of YouGov and Nic Newman of the Reuters Institute discuss attitudes towards sponsored and branded content. They argue that “traditional display advertising on the web is in trouble”; and that “content providers, brands, and platforms are looking for new and better ways to reach and engage audiences.”
Internet users are indeed tuning out of traditional advertising; and one alternative way for marketers to connect with audiences is brand advocacy. This means communicating with target audiences not through advertisements, but through organic content that is shared by employees, customers and partners who, by acting as brand advocates, vouch for the company while at the same time enhancing their own personal brand. Why is brand advocacy so effective? Because it is rooted in user recommendations, which are also viewed with far more trust than sponsored brand content.