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4 Must-See Charts from the 2024 Digital News Report 

19 June 2024
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The Digital News Report (DNR) is a flagship study on the state of the digital publishing industry across the globe. In its 13th edition, this year’s DNR collected survey responses from thousands across 47 markets.  

In this article, we explore the report’s trends in detail, offering actionable insights for publishers to better meet user needs, adapt to changing media dynamics, and navigate the complexities of AI in news production. 

Top takeaways for publishers:  

  • Interest in news is falling while news avoidance is rising. Make sure the content you put out meets the interests of your audiences by studying their user needs.  
  • With digital news subscriptions plateauing, consider bundling services and offering exclusive content to provide a compelling reason for audiences to subscribe. 
  • There is no clear answer to the fragmentation of the media landscape. Experimentation with mediums like video and audio on different platforms has yet to be fully explored.  
  • Use AI to aid journalists in tasks like summarizing and transcribing while maintaining transparency and ethical standards. Ensure human oversight in AI-generated content, particularly on sensitive topics, to maintain trust and credibility with audiences.’

Interest in news is falling; focus on how to meet user needs

The 2024 Digital News Report (DNR) highlights two uncomfortable trends:  

  1. Interest in news is noticeably declining across all age groups in nearly all countries. This trend is particularly stark in the United Kingdom, where interest in news has almost halved over the past nine years, dropping from 70% in 2015 to 38% in 2024.  
  1. Selective news avoidance is on the rise, with 39% of people saying they sometimes or often avoid the news, a substantial increase from 28% in 2019. This fatigue is consistent across demographics and is driven by various factors, including the overwhelming volume of news and its negative content. 

To address these trends, publishers should evaluate whether they meet their audiences’ needs to serve them correctly. This year, the report looked at this question for the first time by analyzing user needs across markets.  

For the most part, the audience’s user needs are met with the current offering! Indeed, audiences expressed a desire for news that helps them stay updated, educates them, and offers different perspectives. These are the user needs that respondents considered most important (see graph).  

However, the user needs priority index highlights that publishers may be overemphasizing breaking news (‘update me’) at the expense of providing varied perspectives (‘give me perspective’) and stories that offer a basis for optimism (‘inspire me’). Addressing these needs could help re-engage selective news readers.  

A huge thanks to Nic Newman alongside Richard Fletcher, Craig T. Robertson, Amy Ross Arguedas, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen for this great report.  

Want to meet the lead author of the Digitial News Report? Nic Newman will be speaking at the Twipe Digital Growth Summit in Brussels on October 8th. Find out more here.

Subscriptions are plateauing; consider changing your offering

The report notes a stagnation in the growth of digital news subscriptions. While there was an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, subscription numbers have plateaued at around 17% (see graph). There is a very low willingness to pay among non-subscribers, with only 2% indicating they would be willing to pay the equivalent of an average full-price subscription. Even among those who subscribe, most do not pay the full price. Instead, they benefit from a significantly discounted price.  

Despite these hurdles, the battle to sustain and grow news engagement is not lost. The report notes, “A sizeable minority has been convinced to pay significant sums for current online news offers”. The problem is that “most people are not willing to pay for what is currently on offer.”  

As such, publishers might consider bundling their services with other products. Highlighting exclusive content and offering combined packages could provide a more compelling reason for audiences to pay for news. By realigning their strategies to meet user needs better (as the previous section showed), publishers can also work towards reversing the trend of declining news interest. Finally, if using heavy discounts to attract audiences, perfecting the conversion flow from discounted to full-priced subscribers is key in ensuring the discounting efforts are worthwhile in the long run by reducing churn.  

The media ecosystem is fragmented, the jury is still out on a way forward

How people find and consume news is changing. The main difference is the shift away from direct access to website/apps to finding news through social media (see graph). 

As social media becomes more important a means to find online news, so does the difficulty of tapping into the various platforms. With increased competition from other platforms, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) have shifted their strategies to retain users on their sites. Facebook also deprioritized news content on their platforms, making it difficult to get traffic from the giant. As a result, referral traffic to news sites from Facebook and X has dramatically decreased by 48% and 27% respectively in 2024.  

News traffic from these sites is declining, and the mediums through which people consume news are also changing. Indeed, video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok have grown substantially, while closed messaging apps (WhatsApp, Telegraph) have remained stable (see graph). 

As it stands, the way forward from this fragmented landscape is still unclear. However, traditional strategies relying on referral traffic are no longer sufficient.

Publishers can adapt by enhancing their presence across multiple platforms and leveraging multimedia content. Yet, as the report highlights, “One of the big challenges of the shift to video networks with a younger age profile is that journalists and news organizations are often eclipsed by news creators and other influencers, even when it comes to news.” And there is also the challenge of knowing how to monetize and bring brand loyalty through other platforms (once again).  

Public opinion on AI varies, but the value of the human touch remains steadfast

As of yet, “there is little evidence that upcoming elections or the increased prevalence of generative AI has so far had any material impact on trust in the news. Across markets, around four in ten (40%) say they trust most news most of the time, the same score as last year.”  

Overall, comfort with AI in journalism varies significantly. Audiences are generally more accepting of AI when it aids human journalists in tasks such as summarizing materials or transcribing interviews. However, there is considerable discomfort with AI-generated content, particularly when it involves creating news autonomously. For instance, only 19% of respondents feel comfortable with news produced mostly by AI with human oversight. In contrast, this number increases to 36% when the news is generated by humans with some AI assistance.  

The type of content produced also affects audience comfort levels. Respondents express more significant unease with AI-generated news on sensitive topics like politics and crime than sports or entertainment, where inaccuracies are seen as less consequential. This distinction highlights the need for careful application of AI in journalistic contexts that demand high. In summary, it is positive to see that the public still values human touch and judgment. 

Looking ahead

The 2024 Digital News Report highlights critical challenges for publishers, including: 

  • Declining news interest and rising news avoidance;  
  • Subscription stagnation; 
  • And a fragmented media landscape.  

To address these issues, publishers must:  

  • Focus on meeting user needs; 
  • Explore innovative subscription models;  
  • And leveraging multimedia content across diverse platforms.  

Additionally, integrating AI with transparency and maintaining human oversight is essential to preserve trust and credibility. Adapting to these evolving trends is crucial for sustaining and growing news engagement. 

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