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Digital News Report 2022: Publisher challenges, and solutions

More publishers are recognizing that subscription on its own will not be enough; developing multiple revenue streams will provide resilience

Every year for the last decade, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has published its ‘must-read’ analysis of the digital news space. The Digital News Report 2022 (DNR) brings together key insights from a survey of more than 93,000 online news consumers across 46 countries. The key themes in the 164-page report include growing news avoidance, as well as lower levels of trust in the media.

Takeaways

  • The big headline from this year’s DNR is that 38% of people globally often or sometimes avoid the news. Rates of news avoidance vary by country, but the US and the UK exhibit some of the highest rates; 42% of people now avoid the news in the US and 46% in the UK. The UK rate of news avoidance has doubled over five years.
  • As news avoidance rises, trust in the news fell in almost half the countries surveyed, cancelling out improvements won during the Coronavirus pandemic. On average, just over 40% of survey respondents said they trusted news most of the time. Lowest on the survey was the US, where trust in the news fell by 3% to reach 26%.
  • This lack of trust spills over into data collection. With first-party data becoming more important, most consumers are still reluctant to register their email address with news sites. Only about a third said they trust news websites to use their personal data responsibly. The figure is significantly lower in the United States at just 18%.

Solutions for publishers

Looking at the report, journalism professor Damian Radcliffe has identified four areas where publishers should be paying attention and makes recommendations to help counter their impact.

Avoidance – Growing numbers of people are deliberately staying away from content that is seen as difficult and depressing. To avoid audiences tuning out, publishers should offer a mix of content, what Katie Vanneck Smith of slow-news publisher Tortoise called ‘Spinach and Cheesecake’ on the Media Voices Podcast. Describing the current news cycle, she said:

There’s been a lot of spinach. And we all need a bit of cheesecake.

Subscriptions squeeze – Around half of paid subscriptions in the US go to three publishers: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Globally, less than 20% of digital news consumers pay for subscriptions and the cost of living crisis is likely to put pressure on that figure

The advice from Radcliffe and the report’s lead author Nic Newman is to ‘double-down on revenue diversification’. Newman said:

More publishers are recognizing that subscription on its own will not be enough. Developing multiple revenue streams will provide resilience and help publishers weather the coming storm.

Reluctance to register – Publishers know they need first-party data; that doesn’t mean they have an effective strategy.  Less than 30% of users have currently registered with a news site, suggesting that most don’t have a clear value proposition that will encourage people give up their data.

The suggested solution is for publishers to use competitions, events and exclusive content to encourage registrations. Publishers also need to persuade consumers that they will treat personal data responsibly.

Audience age gap – Gen Z is a demographic with its own media habits and the DNR 2022 identifies a growing gulf between the media behaviours and preferences of many younger audiences compared and older demographics. They also have a weaker connection with media brands and are more concerned with who is telling the story and what others think about it.

To connect with younger audiences, publishers need to focus on topics that young people care about and develop content aligned to specific platforms. The Digital News Report 2022 said publishers should not expect young people to eventually come around to what has always been done.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends delivers updates and analysis on the industry news you need to stay on top of if you’re running a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email roundup here.