More than half of online users across 26 countries say they use social media as a source of news each week, signalling the scale of disruption to traditional news media organisations and consequences for the future of journalism, a new Oxford study says.
The fifth Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford suggests the combined effects of the rise of social platforms, an accelerating move to mobile devices and a growing rejection by consumers of online advertising has undermined many business models that support quality news.
The study says 51% of all online users across the 26 countries say they use social media as a source of news each week. Around one in ten (12%) now say this is their main source.
It shows the increasingly influential role played by Facebook in the distribution of online news, with 44% using the network to find, read, watch, share or comment on the news each week – more than twice that of its nearest rival.
You Tube (19%) too plays a role in some countries, while Twitter (10%), despite its business problems, remains important for those who are heavily into keeping up with the news.
Social media is significantly more important for women (who are also less likely to go directly to a news website or app) and for the young. More than a quarter (28%) of 18 to 24-year-olds say social media is their main source of news – more than television (24%) for the first time.
The institute’s director of research, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, says: “As people increasingly access news via third party platforms, it will become harder and harder for most publishers to stand out from the crowd, connect directly with users, and make money. This development will leave some winners and many losers.”
The report, based on survey research conducted in 26 countries, reveals the extent of ad-blocking around the world, while progress towards getting consumers to pay for online news remains slow.
Together with falls in print circulation and advertising in many countries, the report documents how these trends are leading to job losses, consolidation and moves towards online-only operations.
Despite this, the report highlights the continuing importance of a number of “anchor news brands” with a strong journalistic track record, which are valued by users as a critical source of trusted news.