Distinctions between Hard and Soft News

This year we have collected more detailed data on the level of interest people have in different news topics across countries and between demographics. Political news is considered most important in Germany, Turkey, and the United States, partly no doubt due to the ongoing presidential election and the drama around Donald Trump’s candidacy. International news is of particular interest in Germany and Austria as well as Ireland. Japanese are most interested in entertainment and celebrity news, with the Spanish, Danes, French, and Germans showing the least interest. Regional news is most important in Germany, Finland, and Spain, reflecting the relative importance of devolved political power in those countries and the media systems that have grown up around this.

But in addition to country-based differences we can see clear differences in gender, with men more interested in subjects like sport and politics and women paying more attention to stories about health and the environment. Again this plays into the debate over distributed content and may help explain why women are often less likely to directly access news websites dominated by politics and business.

INTEREST IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF NEWS BY GENDER – ALL COUNTRIES

gender

Male Female
Sport 48% 19%
Business 48% 30%
Politics 53% 37%
Science & Tech 59% 39%
Crime & Security 47% 48%
Health & Education 46% 59%
Environment 45% 47%
Lifestyle 26% 43%
Celebrity 15% 25%
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Base: Male/Female in all countries: 26098/27232

Hard and Soft News

We can also divide consumers into groups based on their interest in ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ news topics. ‘Hard’ news is typically used to refer to topics that are usually timely, important and consequential, such as politics, international affairs and business news. Conversely, soft news topics include entertainment, celebrity, and lifestyle news.

We asked our survey respondents to rate their interest in several news topics on a five-point scale. We then used this data to compute average levels of interest in hard and soft news for each respondent. Subsequently we compared the scores for hard and soft news, and divided respondents into three groups; those who are more interested in hard news topics, those who are more interested in soft news, and those whose interest in both is the same.

TOPICS INCLUDED IN HARD NEWS AND SOFT NEWS MEASURES

hard soft
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Base: All who indicated a level of interested in all news topics.

On average, in every country we see that interest levels are higher for hard news topics. However, this is likely to be influenced by social desirability bias (the idea that it is more acceptable to interested in certain types of news) as well the norms of the traditional news agenda. At the individual level, people with a high degree of interest in hard news also tend to be the most interested in soft news, and vice versa.

Yet we still see a significant minority in every country that report they are more interested in soft news topics than hard news. The size of this group varies country by country. Around one-third in Japan (34%) and Korea (33%) say they are more interested in soft news. However, less than one in five say the same in most other countries. The preference for hard news is particularly strong in Greece (81%), Spain (77%), Denmark (77%), and Germany (76%).

PROPORTION THAT ARE MORE INTERESTED IN HARD NEWS OR MORE INTERESTED IN SOFT NEWS – ALL COUNTRIES

More interested in hard news Same More interested in soft news
GRE 81% 9% 10%
SPA 77% 11% 12%
DEN 77% 9% 14%
GER 76% 12% 12%
USA 74% 13% 14%
AUT 74% 12% 14%
SWE 73% 12% 15%
UK 71% 12% 17%
FIN 70% 12% 18%
NOR 68% 14% 18%
NLD 68% 16% 16%
CAN 68% 14% 19%
SUI 68% 13% 19%
BEL 68% 14% 19%
TUR 67% 17% 17%
FRA 67% 16% 18%
IRE 66% 15% 19%
POR 65% 16% 19%
ITA 63% 17% 21%
POL 63% 19% 18%
CZE 63% 15% 22%
AUS 62% 16% 22%
BRA 60% 18% 22%
HUN 59% 15% 26%
KOR 50% 17% 33%
JPN 49% 17% 34%
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Base: All who indicated a level of interest in all news topics: Greece = 1972, Spain = 2061, Denmark = 1952, Germany = 1948, US = 2072, Austria = 1906, Sweden = 1980, UK = 1990, Finland = 1980, Norway = 1970, Netherlands = 1946, Canada = 1962, Switzerland = 1949, Belgium = 1954, Turkey = 2027, France = 2059, Ireland = 1943, Portugal = 1966, Italy = 2140, Poland = 1915, Czech Republic = 1973, Australia = 1962, Brazil = 1920, Hungary = 1965, Korea = 2069, Japan = 1943

If we focus on those that say they are more interested in soft news, we see that they are more likely to be young and female. In countries such as Japan and Italy, where interest in soft news is high, women are almost twice as likely as men to be more interested in soft news topics compared to hard.

PROPORTION OF MALES AND FEMALES THAT ARE MORE INTERESTED IN SOFT NEWS TOPICS

Male Female
Spain 14% 19%
Germany 9% 16%
USA 9% 18%
UK 14% 19%
Italy 12% 23%
Japan 23% 44%
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Base: All males/females who indicated a level of interest in all news topics: Spain = 1009/1051, Germany = 949/999, US = 1034/1039, UK = 962/1028, Italy = 1018/1121, Japan = 936/1007.

In every country younger people are more likely to be more interested in soft news topics. Strikingly, over half of under-35s in Japan say they are more interested in soft news topics than hard news.

PROPORTION WITHIN EACH AGE GROUP THAT ARE MORE INTERESTED IN SOFT NEWS TOPICS

18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
Spain 18% 19% 13% 11% 8%
Germany 18% 17% 14% 14% 8%
USA 23% 21% 19% 14% 6%
UK 17% 26% 26% 17% 9%
Italy 29% 31% 26% 21% 12%
Japan 58% 47% 39% 36% 21%
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Base: All 18-24/25-34/35-44/45-54/55+ who indicated a level of interested in all news topics: Spain = 184/366/425/372/714, Germany = 186/275/352/360/777, US = 234/381/374/251/834, UK = 235/281/363/395/717, Italy = 183/317/418/375/846, Japan = 181/328/309/303/822.

Of course, what people say they are interested in may not accurately reflect what they actually do. Nonetheless, we observe some differences in consumption among those that are more interested in soft news. Most noticeably, they are considerably more likely to say that social media is their main source of news. Over one in five of those more interested in soft news in Spain (21%), Italy (20%), and the United States (26%) say that social media are their main source of news. This has a knock-on effect for related aspects of offsite news consumption, with people who prefer soft news more likely to watch news video on social media, and more likely to participate in news coverage. However, this is in part caused by the fact that younger people in general are more likely to use social media for news.

PROPORTION OF THOSE THAT ARE MORE INTERESTED IN HARD NEWS AND SOFT NEWS TOPICS THAT SAY SOCIAL MEDIA IS THEIR MAIN SOURCE OF NEWS

More interested in hard news More interested in soft news
Spain 11% 21%
Germany 4% 11%
USA 10% 26%
UK 6% 13%
Italy 7% 20%
Japan 5% 9%
Q2_new2016. How interested are you in the following types of news?
Q4. You say you’ve used these sources of news in the last week, which would you say is your MAIN source of news?

Base: All those who prefer hard/soft news topics that used a source of news in the last week: Spain = 1572/243, Germany = 1442/229, US = 1480/270, UK = 1388/311, Italy = 1337/435, Japan = 929/625.