The increased availability of smart phones and the rise of popularity of social media is transforming traditional journalism, marking a generational split, according to the 2014 Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Launched today, the third annual report monitored the news consumption habits of 18,000 people in ten countries (the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Brazil and Japan), revealing a substantial shift among the under 30s from desktops to mobile devices as the preferred tool to access news. The survey also highlights the key role played by social media outlets and mobile phone applications traditionally not associated with news consumption, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, which are becoming – in some countries – the preferred vehicle to access news.
Among the key findings:
Smart phones: The use of smart phones and tablets has jumped significantly in the past year, with fewer people using their computers for news. More than a third of online news users across all countries (39%) use two or more digital devices each week for news and a fifth (20%) now say their mobile phone is their primary access point.
Social media: Facebook is by far the most important network for news everywhere. Although Twitter is widely used in the US, Spain, and the UK, it is far less influential in many other European countries. Google+ is emerging as increasingly important for news, and WhatsApp is emerging as a key network for news in countries such as Japan, Spain, Germany, and Italy. YouTube is a vital news vehicle in countries such as France and Italy, but almost unused for news in Denmark and the UK.
Generational divide: Over a third of 18-24 year olds said the smart phone is now their primary access point for digital news. Young people are increasingly “snacking” on news in their own time, instead of relying on pre-determined television and newspaper updates. Young people are also driving consumption of what the report calls “weird news”, which is proving more popular than traditional celebrity stories in the lives of many consumers.
Traditional brands challenged: Traditional news brands remain strong, particular in the UK and Germany, with cross-platform newspaper reach averaging 75% in most European countries, but new players and news aggregators are now more or as popular in the US, Japan, and Brazil. The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are most popular in Europe, US and Brazil, while Google News remains a leading player in Italy, France, and Germany and Yahoo! is the top news site in Japan.
Video: Video news is not taking off as fast online as many news organisations would like it to do. Technical factors are limiting its success and reach, with many young consumers complaining about the time required to upload the content, and older consumers are reluctant to use video as their main source of news.
Reporter stars: An increasing number of reporters are acquiring ‘celebrity status’. The rise of blogging has allowed many reporters to come out of anonymity to assert a strong role within their news organsations. Many of them are leaving mainstream outlets to build their profile further. Among them: Ezra Klein (Vox Media) and Gleen Greenwald (First Look Media).