Foreword to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017
This is our sixth annual report that explores the changing environment around news across countries. The report is based on a survey of more than 70,000 people in 36 markets, along with additional qualitative research, which together make it the most comprehensive ongoing comparative study of news consumption in the world. A key focus remains in Europe where we have added Slovakia, Croatia, and Romania for the first time – but we have also added four markets in Asia (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore) along with three additional Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, and Mexico).
This year’s report comes against the backdrop of continuing concerns about how to fund journalism and the relations between news organisations and platforms, but also an intensification in news about the news, driven by attacks on the US media and widespread concern about ‘fake news’. We look at issues of truth and falsehood and trust in this year’s report, where we continue to see big differences between countries and regions.
We have data on many of these problems, but in particular we have focused on two areas: (1) the extent to which people are prepared to pay for news or the different ways journalism might be funded in the future, and (2) understanding more about some of the drivers of low, and in some cases declining, trust in the media. For the first time we’ve attempted to measure and visualise relative levels of media polarisation across countries and identify a link between media polarisation and trust. Another focus has been on the media’s relationship with platforms – in particular how news is discovered and consumed within distributed environments such as social media, search, and online aggregators. We have undertaken a tracking study in the UK to understand how content flows between these platforms and news brands – and to try to quantify the level of brand attribution that results.
On the business issues, we have conducted a series of focus groups this year in four countries (United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Spain) where we talked to both those who pay for news and those who do not as well as exploring consumer attitudes to emerging funding models such as micropayment, donations, native advertising, sponsored content, and e-commerce. We reference this additional research throughout the report, but in order to do it justice we’ll be publishing much fuller accounts in the coming months.
For an industry perspective we’re delighted to include a viewpoint on journalism’s current dilemmas from Melissa Bell, co-founder of Vox Media. Vox has been at the sharp end of explaining the dramatic political events around the rise of Donald Trump. It is also actively exploring new business models.
In terms of partnerships we continue to deepen our relationships across the world with a multiplicity of distinguished academic institutions. These have helped in a variety of different ways, from preparing country profiles to in-depth analysis of the results. Many of our partners are also organising events or country reports looking in more detail at national themes – adding wider value to this international project. In the final quarter of 2017 we will be producing an Asia Pacific Regional Report with our partners at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
We continue to make efforts to open up the data as much as possible via our website (www.digitalnewsreport.org). This contains slidepacks and charts, along with a licence that encourages reuse, subject to attribution to the Reuters Institute. All of the website charts have a feature which allows them to be used by – or be embedded in – any other website or blog. The website also includes an interactive charting feature, which allows anyone to explore and visualise the data by themselves by country and over time. Raw data tables are also available on request along with documentation for reuse.
We hope that all of this will continue to build into an invaluable resource for academics, media owners, journalists, and those developing policy. A description of the methodology is available on the website along with the complete questionnaire.
Making all this possible, we are hugely grateful to our sponsors: Google, the BBC, Ofcom, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland, the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway, the Korea Press Foundation, Edelman UK, as well as our academic sponsors at the Hans Bredow Institute, the University of Navarra, the University of Canberra, the Centre d’études sur les médias, Université Laval, Canada, and Roskilde University in Denmark.
We are also grateful to YouGov, our polling company, who did everything possible to accommodate our increasingly complex requirements and helped our research team analyse and contextualise the data.