Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
News avoidance by majority of people worldwide is an unsolved problem in the post-pandemic ecosystem. Studies undertaken in developed countries reveal that non-news sites expose people to more political content than news sites. A paper published in the journal Political Communication in August 2023 indicated that among every 10 political news accessed by the public 3.4 belong to news platforms and 6.6 from the non-news platform sources. The estimate is the result of a survey conducted among over 7000 citizen in the United States of America, The Netherlands and Poland.
The sample of the survey included mainly online news consumers. The researchers stated that as people spend little time in news platforms, but spend enough time online to attend various engagement throughout the day, they proportionately come across circulated news in the non-news sites. However, news either from news sites or non-news sites does not influence much for building-up political perspectives.
Nic Newmen of ‘Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism’, Oxford University comparing status of media platforms within ten years in UK at a seminar on ‘Future of Journalism’ during August 2023 pointed out that viewers and readers are fast vanishing from television and print media. While viewership of television recorded 79 percent in 2013, it reduced to 52 percent in 2023. Similarly readers of print publications went down from 59 percent into mere 14 percent. On the otherhand, consumers of social media raised from 20 percent in 2013 to 38 percent in 2023.
In social media popularity of video platforms has been increased. YouTube user base in UK surged from 16 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2023. While consumers of WhatsApp raised from seven percent to 16 percent, consumers of Facebook went down from 36 percent to 28 percent within a decade.
News avoidance in the developed nations is evident from the various studies. Research data explains that UK registers the highest position with 27 percent of people avoiding news followed by France with 23 percent, Germany with 22 percent and USA with 18 percent among select few countries. In the international level UK and France are credited for their excellence in journalism, but the recent trend of news avoidance in those top two countries is worrysome.
Analysts focus upon certain points as the major reasons for news avoidance. First, circulation of abundance of information is the main reason for news avoidance at the news platforms. During the post-pandemic New Normal people came across large flow of information which diminished public interest in news. Spread of smartphones resulted in people receiving information from various sources on continuous basis. Often they come across summary of major happenings of the hour in mobile devices and go to news platforms to seek details on select items as per their preference and necessity at streaming services or search engines. They reach the newspaper pages or television screens for explainers, opinion or debate.
Secondly, research has also shown that growing number of people avoid news as they experience anger, anxiety, helplessness and depression while coming across negative news. For example, people worldwide did not show much interest on coverage of economic meltdown and Ukraine war during New Normal. As per media theories, people seek more news during economic disturbances and wars, but the theory had little impact. Many parts of the world experience lack of justice, atrocity and suppression, but common people are unable to oppose the trend. It appears that in frustration they prefer to keep themselves aloof from such negative reporting of current events.
Thirdly, closure of local news outlets is yet another reason for diminishing interest in news among general public. In the developed countries local news platforms starting from weekly newspapers to digital portals are amidst of disruption due to failure of business models. As a result qualitative journalism faced causalities and news in general lost its glory. People did not like to read news which do not come to their use in life.
Fourthly, news consumers in the developed countries are almost acquainted with online news environment, but hesitate to pay for news. For example only nine perent online news consumers in UK pay subscription to news websites. They consider the news value for enrolling as subscribers to a particular news outlet. On the otherhand, business news platforms enriched with paid and sponsored content entertain readers at their websites free of charge which attract more people. However, in the process a majority of news consumers come across fake news, which in turn make the news landscape toxic.
Fifth, use of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence is expected to make the news environment attractive again. News consumers are increasingly prefer news of their choice. Artificial Intelligence can prepare special editions of news products, either text, voice or video for each individual customer. Such advanced offerings may turn to be a reason to compel news consumers return to dedicated news platforms.
Trends of news avoidance in the developed countries will be reflected in developing societies like India sooner or later. Such advance warning may be treated as a wake-up call for Indian news platforms to reinnovate their editorial and business models to face the challenges ahead. News avoidance is a serious problem and remains unsolved. Indian news platforms need to engineer individual strategic plans to confront the problem. Negligence in this regard may prove dangerous.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on September 15, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-319
It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Farhi, Paul. Do you avoid the news ? You are in a growing company. Washington Post. August 1, 2023
Coddington, Mark and Lewis Seth. Non-News sites expose people to more political content than news sites, why ? NemanLab. September 5, 2023
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