Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
“‘Digital News Report 2022’ covered a representative sample from half of the world population to collect information about digital news consumption. In India, 72 percent of online consumers access news through smartphones and 35 percent via computers. The most popular platforms include ‘You Tube’ 53 percent and ‘WhatsApp’ for 51 percent”
While the spread of mass media and daily audience engagement time is on the wheels of consistent rise as a result of the popularisation of social media, statistics on avoidance of news platforms or particular forms of news have turned to be a cause of concern by the beginning of the third decade of the twenty-first century.
Media research reports figure out the growing trend of rationing or limiting exposure to news. Though the era of digital transformation reached a plateau in the developed nations and corona virus pandemic accelerated the process of digital adoption, the emergence of news avoidance by consumers has raised many questions on the future of the news industry.
A valuable document on the status of the international news environment ‘Digital News Report 2022’ was published by ‘The Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism at Oxford University in the middle of June 2022. The annual report is being published regularly since 2012. A survey was conducted in January and February 2022 to collect of data for incorporation in the report. About 93,000 news consumers from 46 nations participated in the online survey. In addition, studies on focus groups from the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil were conducted. India is being covered in the research since 2021.
‘Digital News Report 2022’ emphasized four core areas that raised challenges on news consumption. It included loss of interest, avoidance of presence on news platforms, political polarization and behaviour of young news consumers. On totality, the emerging problems culminate to a phenomenon that the report named as “selective news avoidance”. It noted, “while the majority of people across countries remain engaged and use the news regularly, we find that many also increasingly choose to limit their exposure to it – or at least to certain types of news.”
As per statistics provided in the report during five years between 2017 and 2022 news avoidance among consumers in Brazil increased 54 percent and 46 percent in the United Kingdom. However, the rate is low in the United States, the proportion of consumers who avoid news increased from 38 percent to 42 percent. On the other hand, while the country seems to have the highest number of 15 percent disconnected news users, those who do not consume any news product, a similar trend is marked in Japan with 15 percent, the United Kingdom 9 percent along with France and Australia those record 8 percent each.
India achieved only 54 percent of internet connectivity among its 140 crore people by 2022 and the prevailing online environment may not attract the media trends of the developed world immediately. But the international news consumption pattern is believed to influence the users of traditional media and be a part of the emerging online ecosystem.
The report indexed six major causes for news avoidance. On one hand, 43 percent of consumers “say there is too much politics and Covid-19”, 29 percent “say the news is untrustworthy or biased” and 16 percent “say there is nothing I can do with the information”. On the other hand, 29 percent “say they are worn out by the amount of news”, 36 percent “say the news has a negative effect on mood” and 17 percent “say it leads to arguments I would rather avoid”. The reasons for news avoidance found out of a major survey among the digital news consumers need to be taken into consideration for formulating editorial policy for media platforms worldwide.
Research data indicate that the political affiliation of news organizations compels them for high coverage of political events, which is not liked by majority of the consumers. Since they find abundant content of their choice online, they prefer to avoid packaged news products. The conventional pattern of covering “political crisis, international conflicts, global pandemic and climate catastrophes seems to be precisely the ones that are turning some people away from news especially amongst those who are younger or harder to reach”, the report mentioned. Though a number of news outlets have began to lay emphasis to generate content basing upon consumers choice, the report questioned, and “there will be a limit to how far journalists can go- or should to – to make the news more palatable.”
Trust in news is fast eroding in almost half of the countries included in the Reuters survey. About 42 percent of the sample confessed to a loss of faith in news circulated in the media platforms. Similarly “interest in news fallen sharply across markets, from 63 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2022”, the report claimed. Another major finding refer to fragmented pattern of news assess practice by young people which result in missing “key context that has previously carefully packaged into liner narratives by the mainstream media”.
The report also point out, “ a significant proportion of younger and less educated people say they avoid news because it can be harder to follow or understand – suggesting that the news media could do much more to simplify language and better explain or contextualize complex stories.” It also explains about “the emergence of a minority of people who are active online, many of them younger or less well educated, but who have become largely disconnected from the news, perhaps because they do not feel that it is relevant to their lives.”
‘Digital News Report 2022’ covered a representative sample from half of the world population to collect information about digital news consumption. It mentioned that in India 72 percent of online consumers access news through smartphones and 35 percent via computers. The most popular platforms include ‘YouTube’ for 53 percent and ‘WhatsApp’ for 51 percent. The major challenge online media face includes misinformation and incessant trolling. The report remarked that the worldwide spread of social media has not only created a different ecosystem, but the later versions of social media proved to be different from the earlier versions. It warrants building up new models for news production, distribution, and management of the business.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter circulated by the author on July 1, 2022. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-256. It is an open-source content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism. Digital News Report 2022
Owen, Laura Hazard. As traditional news use declines, online news isn’t making up the gap. Nieman Lab. June 14, 2022.