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The 2017 Asia-Pacific Supplementary Digital News Report

The 2017 Asia-Pacific Supplementary Digital News Report presents an analysis of data from a survey of online news users in seven markets in the Asia-Pacific region: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

It is based on data from the 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey but the regional focus provides more detailed analysis of developments across Asia-Pacific markets. The report shows that most markets in the region are deeply shaped by the spread of smartphones and the rise of platforms, but also characterised by some publishers who maintain a strong direct connection with their users.

The report has been produced in collaboration between the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, led by Professor Francis Lee working with Michael Chan, Hsuan-Ting Chen, Dennis K. K. Leung, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.

Key findings include: 

  • Online platforms, with social media included, have become the most widely used and important source of news in most countries in the region, surpassing television and print. Japan constitutes the sole exception. (Lower internet penetration in Malaysia means results there cannot necessarily be generalised to the population as a whole.)
  • Five markets in the region are ‘smartphone first’, as the proportions of respondents choosing smartphone as their main device for accessing online news surpass the proportions using computers as their main device. Australia and Japan are the exceptions.
  • Direct access to news websites or news organisations’ apps, search engines, and social media are the three most important ways for people to access online news. Japan and South Korea are the exceptions where search and aggregators are the most important ways of accessing online news.
  • In all markets, people consume online news in a large variety of ways, ranging from following a live news page within a website to watching online news videos. Despite increased investment in video from both platforms and publishers, most respondents in most surveyed markets indicated that they mostly read news in text. In many of the markets surveyed, there are also no significant between-age-groups differences in preferences for text or video.
  • Social media are very widely used for news, especially in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. In these markets, about half of those who used social media for news think of Facebook as a useful way of getting news (instead of seeing news when being on Facebook for other reasons).
  • Despite the wide use of social media and the opportunities most of these platforms provide users to manage what kind of news they see, in all markets surveyed, respondents reported not being particularly active in curating news for themselves. Respondents also exhibited relatively low levels of news participation (e.g. sharing news stories, commenting on news stories, etc.).
  • Except in South Korea and Australia, responses suggest respondents in most markets in the region are less likely than respondents in the UK and US to see a diverse range of news contents. The discrepancies exist regardless of whether the respondents used social media, search engines, or news aggregators to access online news.
  • Most respondents in the region are not paying for the online news they are consuming. The percentages of payers are nonetheless comparable to that in the US and higher than that in the UK.
  1. When asked why they pay for news, the convenience of being able to access content via smartphone or tablet is the only reason that stand out. The percentages of people saying that they pay for online news in order to help fund journalism are relatively small.
  2. When those who do not pay for online news are asked why they do not pay, the main reason cited is the fact that people feel they can already get what they need for free (or that online news is not worth paying for), frequently because people’s favourite news source doesn’t currently charge for access.
  • Substantial proportions of respondents in most of the surveyed markets say they at least occasionally try to avoid news, even though the percentages are often lower than those in the US. People who try to avoid the news are less interested in the news only in some of the countries. In most of the survey markets, ‘it can have a negative effect on my mood’ is the most frequently cited reason for avoiding news. But in South Korea, ‘it leads to arguments I’d rather avoid’ is the most important reason to avoid news. In Malaysia, the most frequently cited reason is ‘I can’t rely on news to be true’.
  • Finally, the analysis shows that, in six of the seven Asia-Pacific markets surveyed here, more respondents trust the news than distrust the news. South Korea is the sole exception, whereas the proportion of respondents trusting the news just surpasses the proportion of respondents distrusting the news in Malaysia. In all surveyed markets, younger people find news less trustworthy. Levels of trust do not seem directly related to external assessments of media freedom.
  • Except in Australia and Japan, respondents in the Asia-Pacific markets perceive their news media as being subjected to undue political or government influence. Except in Japan and Singapore, respondents in the Asia-Pacific markets perceive their news media as being subjected to undue commercial influence. Perceptions of undue political and/or commercial influence do not seem directly related to external assessments of media freedom.