In this section we draw on country data on brand performance along with questions asked elsewhere in the survey about the types of news sources accessed online and offline. This includes a typology of different online sources: whether they are traditional newspaper providers such as the New York Times, broadcaster websites like NHK, Globo, and the BBC, or digital-born players like Yahoo, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Google News.
In the figure we have used these classifications to show the level of disruption suffered by traditional news organisations from pure players. We can see that in some countries like Finland and Denmark, traditional newspaper brands still dominate online news. In the UK and Brazil broadcast brands take the largest share, with newspapers playing a lesser role. By contrast, in Japan, Brazil, Australia, and the US there has been far more impact from digital-born players.
Online reach of newspapers, broadcasters, and digital born players – by country
How newspaper brands are managing the transition to digital
Aggregators and new digital native news companies may be gaining ground but they still produce a very small proportion of original journalism. The majority of journalists are still employed by companies that built their reputation from newspapers, which is why there is so much concern about their long-term sustainability in a digital age.
Overall we find that three-quarters of our sample (74%) across all countries access a newspaper brand each week but in most countries the audience share coming from the online part of the operation grows every year.
Newspaper brand reach by country – print/online split
Some countries like Finland have seen newspapers transferring a traditional strength in print to online usage. Two-thirds of our sample (64%) use these brands in both print and online, with a total reach of 93%. This is partly because Finland, as a small country, has been less disrupted by outside forces – protected by language and culture. But the position of newspapers in Australia, the United States, and Japan is very different.
Broadcasters online – a mixed picture
Across our sample we see that the vast majority (89%) are using a broadcaster brand via TV, radio, website, or app to access the news. But for these public service or commercial channels the main focus – and the main audience – remains with television and radio.
Audience levels and business models around broadcast news have not been disrupted to the same extent as print. Indeed for most, online news has been an opportunity to extend services and overall reach by competing head to head with newspapers around text news.
Broadcaster reach by country – TV and radio vs online
The success of TV brands online has partly depended on the extent to which they have been able to compete directly with newspapers.
In Brazil, commercial Globo has invested heavily in its online services and is the largest and most successful brand at 25% share online. Public broadcasters in Finland, Denmark, and the UK have faced little restriction on their ability to leverage their considerable investments in journalism online. By contrast NHK in Japan, RAI in Italy, and public broadcasters in Germany and France have faced financial, political, or organisational constraints.
In all cases, the impact of greater competition online means that even the most successful broadcasters end up looking much smaller online. Here are a few examples.
Selected public service broadcasters – TV and radio vs online
Low levels of online usage for public service news are a particular problem because most PSBs have a mandate to provide services for all age groups and demographics.
Public service broadcasters usage by age – across TV, radio, and online
Of the selected broadcasters, the BBC has the highest overall reach, with almost 80% accessing a news broadcast, news website, or app in the last week. It also has the flattest age profile; its strong online presence means that over two-thirds (68%) of 18–24s also use its services. By contrast YLE, the Finnish broadcaster, reaches only four in ten young people (40%) but nine in ten (91%) of over 55s. ZDF and NHK have a healthy overall weekly reach but mainly because of high usage amongst the over 55s. As young people watch less television the low levels of online reach will increasingly affect the legitimacy of public broadcasters and the way they are funded.
Digital-born news sector
Digital-born is a wide category that includes (a) portals like MSN and Google News that aggregate news from other sources and (b) second-wave start-ups like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Vice News that create original content as well as repackaging news from elsewhere.
In general the old-style portals like Yahoo and MSN have been declining in popularity along with the move to mobile. Much of their success came from the tie in with email services and default search engines on computers. By contrast the Huffington Post has significantly increased its audience in the last year in many of the countries we survey. In the United States it has increased online reach by 5 percentage points while Buzzfeed has doubled in popularity. We see similar trends towards socially driven news companies in other markets such as Italy.
Growth of Buzzfeed and Huffington Post for news – US and Italy
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Base: Total sample/18–24s US = 2295/155, Italy = 2006/174. Note: We did not survey Buzzfeed consumption in Italy in 2014.
Both the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are looking to develop a stronger news focus as they grow. This has involved hiring high-profile journalists and in most counties HuffPo has partnered with traditional news providers such as Le Monde in France, L’Espresso group in Italy, and El País in Spain. MSN, on the other hand, has been pulling back from original content and from their joint ventures in Australia and Japan to focus more on pure aggregation.
Many more sources of news but consumers stick to a few trusted brands
The growth of the internet has provided access to more and more sources of news than ever before – most of them free. These include digital-born brands (above), but also easier access to international brands like the International New York Times, Daily Mail Online, and the Financial Times. And then there is a plethora of specialist blogs and websites that provide information related to business, technology, and entertainment.
Against this background, it is perhaps surprising that our data suggest most people continue to access a relatively small number of trusted sources. Looking at online news in particular, a quarter of our total sample (25%) only consume one source of news in a given week. That figure rises to a third in Japan (36%) and the UK (33%).
Number of online sources by country – single source vs more than four
The low number of sources used is perhaps a reaction to the bewildering amount of choice but also testament to the enduring power of strong brands. In Japan more than half (62%) of those who only use one online source access Yahoo and in the UK 46% use the BBC.
Those groups who express a stronger interest in news, however, are far more likely to access multiple sources online. We see the same effect by country; in urban Brazil – where there is a strong self-declared interest in news – almost a third (30%) access more than four sources online each week, with a fifth or more doing the same in Ireland (20%), Spain (20%), Denmark (21%), and Finland (24%).
Online increases the number of news brands accessed overall
Taking an aggregate view of all our countries – we find that in combination with traditional platforms, the impact of online is to significantly increase the number of brands used for news each week. In all countries, those who consumed news online used between 1.4 and 2 times more news brands on average than those who did not. This pattern was most evident in Brazil (1.9x), and least evident in Germany (1.4x).
Effect of online use on the number of brands accessed
Combined with data showing that online users continue to regularly access TV news (75%), radio news (37%), and print (41%), this shows that online is not replacing traditional media but is mainly being used as an additional layer extending choice and convenience.