The report is the most comprehensive piece of research on news consumption worldwide, based on more than 92,000 interviews and covering 46 countries from across the world.
It examines how COVID-19 is transforming the news industry, how audiences think about impartiality and the rise of more visual social networks like TikTok and Instagram. It also explores the rise of reader revenue models, the role of trust and misinformation, and the way female, younger and more partisan audiences perceive how the news media cover and represent them.
One of the main findings of the study is that public trust in the news has grown during the pandemic, especially in Western Europe, helping brands with a reputation for reliable reporting during such a critical period.
"We've been through a very dark time and much of the public recognize that news organizations have often been the ones shining light in that darkness," said Rasmus Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute.
The study data also shows that print newspapers have seen a further sharp decline as lockdowns impacted physical distribution, accelerating the shift towards a mostly digital future and the use of social media for news consumption. The accelerating technological revolution means 73% of people now access news via a smartphone, up from 69% in 2020.
However, the number of users willing to pay for digital news remains low and, in most countries, a large proportion of digital subscriptions go to just a few big national brands.
These findings demonstrate that the transition from printed media to digital media has still not been successfully concluded and that there are still big imbalances that need to be solved. In this sense, it’s crucial to expand and consolidate the unionizing wave in digital and local media to ensure fair contracts for all digital media workers, regardless of the size of their employer.
Young and diverse newsrooms
The study points out that one of the biggest challenges for media is to build on the trust gained and to further engage audiences. To win subscribers, especially young ones, it is important to give space to, and hire more young reporters, and be present on social media. But that’s not all.
The research found that the media are seen to be representing young people (especially young women), people with a strong political viewpoint, and people from minority ethnic groups less fairly. These findings evidence the urgent need for more diverse newsrooms that represent everybody’s views and interests.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “The Reuters Digital News Report findings reveal that the Covid pandemic has accelerated both positive and negative trends in the media that need to be addressed. Trade unions will play a key role in ensuring fair labor rights and salaries within a growing digital media landscape, in guaranteeing diverse and gender-balanced newsrooms and ensuring that the transition from print to digital journalism doesn’t leave any worker behind”.