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Online audiences less interested in international news than TV audiences

RISJ Admin

Contributing Author

A new RISJ Report looking at international coverage on BBC TV and online has found online audiences for international news often lag behind those on the BBC1 bulletins.The study found online audiences for individual international stories are on average (even when aggregated) lower than those of the two main BBC TV news bulletins. In addition, online selection of international stories often follows behind them being broadcast on TV.
This reinforces the importance of mainstream TV bulletins for communicating significant international news. BBC TV news programmes still play an important role in setting the wider news agenda and a focus on international news does not have to come at the price of audience numbers.
Other conclusions of the study include:
While audiences say they are in general less interested in foreign news than domestic news audience figures for international news hold up well. A strong international news story can draw up to 20% higher audience for a TV news bulletin than average with less attractive stories rarely depressing audiences below 10-20 per cent.
TV News can provide intense coverage of significant international stories in advance of any clear audience interest (as was the case with coverage  of the Tunisian uprising in early 2011) without paying a penalty in audience numbers,  and then on occasions drive higher audiences later online.
Extended coverage of some international events can lead to audiences declining during the programme indicating a limited appetite for lengthy analysis.
Major international issues and events can retain high levels of interest over weeks or months when they are perceived as significant.
Human interest, relevance and strong narrative remain major drivers of interest – online as well as on TV
Story placement and profile do not have a direct correlation in audience engagement or numbers.
Location may be important in the production and organisation of news ("home" vs "foreign") but seems to be less significant in determining consumption. Audiences increasingly engage with news according to non-geographic factors, including human interest and direct personal relevance.
The study, called The Public Appetite for Foreign News on TV and Online, was co-authored by Professor Richard Sambrook of Cardiff University's School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Dr David Levy, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and Dr Simon Terrington.
It makes use of BBC audience data including Pulse and BARB surveys for international news reports during 2010 – 2011 including coverage of the Arab Spring and several major disasters.
The study examined data from the bbc.co.uk/news website and the BBC TV news bulletins at 6 and at 10. It did not include radio, mobile or continuous news audiences.