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Increase in trust — decline in interest

Key insights from Digital News Report 2021

[Editor’s note: A version of this article by Anton Protsiuk appeared in the latest edition of The Fix’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest media news, opportunities, and insights every Monday.]

Business people have Warren Buffet’s annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, devout Catholics follow the Pope’s biannual Urbi et Orbi address. For the news media – it’s the annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Released last week, the report tells the tale of how the industry was impacted by a once-in-a-century global pandemic – and hints at the post-COVID future.

Trust in news increased over the past year as people turned to the media for reliable information about the pandemic. As the report’s authors put it, “this reverses, to some extent, recent falls in average trust – bringing levels back to those of 2018”.

More from The Fix: 4 questions I wish the 2022 Digital News Report would answer

In CEE, Poland and Hungary saw a 3% gain in overall trust despite their governments’ anti-media stance. Croatia got a 6% jump – on par with the average across countries surveyed.

Yet interest in news is starting to decline. According to the report, there are signs that many “are turning away from the news media and in some cases avoiding news altogether,” particularly in the countries less hit by the pandemic (especially in the US, where the polarizing Trump administration gave way to a more “boring” Biden presidency).

Have people become more ready to pay for digital news? Yes – but mostly thanks to select rich, North European countries. As we noted in an overview, “Norway continues to be the world’s superpower when it comes to paying for media with a whopping 45%.” But many other European countries are behind.

Unsurprisingly, more people, particularly young audiences, are getting their news from social media rather than directly from news outlets. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram are increasingly important for news consumption (especially in the Global South).

Consumption of news through messaging apps like WhatsApp creates greater concerns about disinformation (graph: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021, CC BY 4.0)

For more analysis, The Fix has covered some findings. Of course, it’s worth reading through the report itself, or at least its executive summary and the countries you’re interested in.

Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

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