The media is characterised by strong broadcasters, a newspaper sector struggling to adapt to digital change, along with powerful Korean-owned online portals, social networks, and messaging apps.
Top Brands % Weekly Usage (TV, Radio and Print)
|Weekly use||Main source|
|Yonhap News TV||24%||4%|
|TV Chosun news||21%||2%|
|Channel A news||19%||1%|
|Maeil Business Newspaper||13%||1%|
|The Hankook Ilbo||7%||0%|
Top Brands % Weekly Usage (Online)
|Weekly use||Main source|
|YTN news online||24%||3%|
|KBS news online||22%||3%|
|JTBC news online||20%||2%|
|SBS news online||16%||1%|
|MBC news online||16%||1%|
|Joongang Ilbo online||15%||2%|
|Chosun Ilbo online||15%||1%|
|Hankyoreh Shinmun online||14%||1%|
|Yonhap News online||13%||2%|
|Kyunghyang Shinmun online||12%||1%|
|Dong-a Ilbo online||11%||0%|
Overview of key developments
By Sonho Kim
Senior researcher, Korea Press Foundation
While TV remains popular in general with Koreans, TV news has suffered a gradual decline from levels of around 95% in 2011. Public broadcaster KBS is the most widely used source offline but has done less well online while SBS, another popular TV news outlet, has invested heavily in its online news brand, along with a data journalism team. Cable news channels such as JTBC, TV Chosun, MBN, and Channel A – owned respectively by newspapers Joongang Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, Maeil Business Newspaper, and Dong-a Ilbo – have increased in popularity, while 24-hour cable news channel YTN has lost market share in recent years.
Web-portal sites such as Naver and Daum are popular digital news platforms, with about 70% of Korean people accessing news this way at least once a week. In addition to news, these portals offer web search, email, blogs, computer games, shopping, and messenger services. Naver is also the creator of the messaging app Line, though it has been a separate corporation since 2014. In the same year, Daum merged with Kakao, which operates chat app Kakao Talk along with the social networking site Kakao Story.
Given the debates in the US and Europe about the growing power of platforms and intermediaries, it is interesting to note that news providers in Korea have been eager to publish their content via portals for years. Publishers are paid for their content but the terms are kept confidential.
Naver and Daum last year together formed a Committee for the Evaluation of News Partnership, complete with a set of ethical standards to help decide which providers should be eligible to supply news to portals.
Korea is the home of Samsung and LG and consequently a market leader in mobile devices, with around 85% smartphone penetration. 1 Mobile news consumption (66%) has increased dramatically since 2011 when a Korea Press Foundation survey showed just 11% accessing this way. 2 Those who access news via smartphones and tablets now exceed those who access news via personal computers.
The number of Koreans reading newspapers has fallen significantly over the last few years to around a quarter of the population (compared with 45% in 2011). With print subscriptions plummeting, many newspaper groups have been focusing their efforts on cost cutting and innovations in digital technology. Chosun Ilbo, the largest newspaper online and offline, launched a VR news app while Financial News has introduced robot journalism to cover stock market developments. Maeil Business Newspaper is also planning to use robot journalism and VR technologies to promote their content. Using advanced natural language processing techniques, the Korea Press Foundation recently launched a news archive titled ‘Big Kinds’, akin to IBM Watson’s News Explorer, in order to support newspapers’ automation of news.
Several foreign brands have entered the Korean news market including Huffington Post Korea – in a partnership with the Hankyoreh Shinmun. Although Huffington Post Korea’s share is still low, it is notable for its adoption of native advertising as its primary business model. BuzzFeed is expected to launch its Korean news service later in 2016.
Most online newspapers remain ad-supported. Indeed, in 2015, the Wall Street Journal withdrew from Korea after it became clear that a paywall strategy would not be successful due to the extent of free news. Digital native publisher, Ohmynews, known for integrating citizen journalism and professional journalism, has struggled financially for years.
The usage of ad-blockers appears to be below average (12%) among the 26 countries in this study. This may be because portal websites tend not to use pop-ups and carry relatively few banner ads.
Paying for news
Online news is mainly supported by advertising. Very few newspapers charge directly for news online in Korea.
Historically, trust in journalists and news organisations has not been high in Korea. In particular, misinformation about the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014 and about the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2015 affected trust in the news media.
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TOP SOCIAL NETWORKS*
- As of Feb. 2016, the number of smartphone service subscribers had reached 44.1 million – Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning: https://msit.go.kr/
- The 2011 news consumption data are from Media Audience Research published annually by the Korea Press Foundation. ↩