Fueled by an appetite for accurate information on the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide trust in news has grown on average six percentage points over the last year, according to research conducted by YouGov for the annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report.
However, research has also shed light on the economic pressure felt by news organizations around the world as the pandemic accelerated consumers’ reliance on digital news platforms, which remain difficult to monetise.
YouGov’s research is based on a survey of 92,000 people in 46 media markets representing the views of more than half the world’s population and including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia and Peru for the first time.
Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (65%), while the United States – roiled by deep political divisions and racial tensions – has the lowest levels (29%).
“The focus on factual reporting during the COVID-19 crisis may have made the news seem more straightforward, while the story has also had the effect of squeezing out more partisan political news. This may be a temporary effect, but in almost all countries we see audiences placing a greater premium on accurate and reliable news sources,” said the report’s lead author Nic Newman.
While print publications were already experiencing declining revenues before the pandemic, restrictions on movement and store closures as a result of public health measures hit newspapers especially hard. Countries that have traditionally had high levels of circulation, such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, have seen some of the biggest falls, accelerating the push to digital subscriptions.
News agencies continue attempts to recoup lost revenue by way of digital subscriptions, with varying degrees of success across markets. One notable stat from our research is the difference in contribution made by local and regional publications across countries. In Norway, 57% of subscribers pay for one or more local outlets in digital form. This compares with 23% in the United States, but just 3% in the United Kingdom.
“Subscriptions are beginning to work for some publishers but it won’t work for all publishers and most importantly, it won’t work for all consumers,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the report’s co-editor. “Many people don’t wish to be tied to one or two news sites or apps, others don’t find the product worth the price. Given abundant access to free news, publishers will need to develop compelling options to bundle publications or more ways of paying a smaller amount for limited access for payment to become a mass phenomenon.”