Ana Pinto Martinho, Gustavo Cardoso, and Miguel Paisana
ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon
Portugal is ranked (jointly) highest for trust in the news across our 37-country survey, but low confidence in social media and suspicions about the legitimacy of online news content raise concerns about how long this will last.
Online news in Portugal is almost as popular as television in terms of weekly reach, even if monetising that traffic remains a struggle. In that regard, one of the most significant digital initiatives of the past year has been the emergence of a new platform called Nónio, supported by six of the biggest media brands in Portugal.1 The platform allows users to access hundreds of news websites, TV streams and radio on-demand services, with a single login. For publishers, this opens up the possibility of sharing data across multiple websites while offering consumers more convenience in terms of access. Publishers would like to win a greater share of the Portuguese digital advertising market, which is currently dominated by Facebook and YouTube (display) and Google (search). The Nónio platform was funded by a €900,000 grant from the Google Digital News Initiative, as part of its efforts to help publisher monetisation.
This year the Portuguese media landscape has been changed by the emergence of a new media group, called Trust in News, which now runs a portfolio of 12 magazines previously managed by the Impresa media group, that owns the SIC TV channels and respected weekly newspaper Expresso. One of the two main distribution companies, Distrinews, filed for bankruptcy, leaving the majority of the newspapers and magazines in the hand of a single distributor, VASP. This also contributed to the closing of Motorpress, a media group that owned specialist titles such as car magazine Auto Hoje and parenting publication Pais & Filhos. There were 65 job losses as a result, 22 of them journalists.
Meanwhile, telecom multinational Altice (the successor to Portugal Telecom) is engaged in a complicated process, that raises competition issues,to buy the Media Capital Group, owner of the most watched TV channel TVI and Media Capital Radios. The Media Capital group is currently owned by the Spanish media Group PRISA.
Trust in news in Portugal has been consistently high. But this year’s report puts the country in equal first place with 62% of the sample claiming they trust news in general. While this is consistent with previous studies, this year’s data point to a more nuanced situation — 48% claim they trust news found through search engines but only 29% say they trust news on social media. Portuguese news consumers show high levels of concern about issues such as manipulation, ‘fake news’, and poor journalism. Almost half say they have seen examples of bad journalism in the previous week, and 38% say they have seen content which has been manipulated to suit a specific agenda.
Analysis of the data combining opinions on manipulation of news, ‘fake news’, poor coverage, bad journalism, and trust in media brands seems to show that the Portuguese distrust the news environment but tend to trust specific media brands. What could be thought as a rather ambiguous relationship between journalism and consumers can be explained by the traditional mismatch between opinion and practice of citizens: they express concern about the quality of journalism but stay faithful to their preferred journalist and brands in terms of trust.
Looking at the most used sources for news, TV brands comprise the top five offline brands used for news — SIC Notícias, SIC, TVI24, TVI, and public service broadcaster RTP. In terms of online media outlets, the two brands listed at the top are digital-born SAPO, a portal which aggregates news from multiple outlets, and Notícias ao Minuto, followed by legacy newspapers that are also on the internet, Jornal de Notícias, Público, and Correio da Manhã.
Regarding payment for news, the survey casts a grim shadow over the print sector. The percentage of users who paid for a print newspaper in the previous week is 31% (down 6 points). Less than one in ten (9%) have paid for any kind of digital news in the past year, one of the lowest figures in our survey. Combined with increasing ad-blocker usage (up 3 percentage points from last year) the current trends are putting a huge strain on legacy print brands’ revenue.
There have been few underlying changes in the media landscape in Portugal, with TV and online news the most popular way of accessing news. Printed media continued to decline in terms of weekly reach.
The consistently high trust figures (62%) have been a subject of much discussion and some surprise given the pressures on the publishers and concern about undue political and economic influence. The lower trust scores for social media (29%) and search (48%) show that Portuguese news consumers are worried about the reliability of information they find in third-party environments.