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The future of media: more digital and more economic pain, Reuters Institute says

Guy Faulconbridge
Men wearing protective face masks work at a printing press amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) - The coronavirus outbreak has prompted a significant increase in news consumption but the economic turmoil is forcing news businesses to accelerate their move to digital, The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said.

The coronavirus lockdowns prompted a global rise in viewing of television and online news though concerns about misinformation remain high, with Facebook and WhatsApp seen as the main channels for spreading so called "fake news".

The broader picture is that the outbreak is accelerating the trends wrought by the technological revolution, including the rise of smartphones as an interface of news consumption, The Reuters Institute said in its annual Digital News Report (www.digitalnewsreport.org).

"The headline is that we see an accelerated move to digital media and mobile media and various kinds of platforms," Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute, said by telephone.

"This is accompanied by a continued decline in trust in news and growing concerns over misinformation, in particular on social media and from some politicians."

The biggest increase in concern over media misinformation was in Hong Kong - where anti-government protesters have opposed attempts by China to tighten its control of the former British colony.

The business of news remains bleak. Media across the world are cutting staff to cope with a dramatic fall in advertising revenue.

But a ray of hope may be that increasing numbers of people are willing to pay for news online, though that may also increase informational inequality as many cannot afford top quality journalism.

And a "winner takes all" process can be seen: Around half of those that subscribe to any online or combined package in the United States use the New York Times or the Washington Post, the Reuters Institute found.

A similar trend can be seen in the United Kingdom with The Times or the Telegraph.

And for those predicting the dominance of video news, the Reuters Institute found that in a number of countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and South Korea, people under 35 preferred to read rather than watch news online.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is a research centre at the University of Oxford that tracks media trends. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, funds the Reuters Institute.


(Editing by Stephen Addison)