The impact of the digital transition of the Italian media system has finally become evident, with digital-born players reaching the top positions in our ranking, digital advertising revenues becoming predominant, new podcast companies being established, and news kiosks changing the nature of their operations.
Digital disruption has been slower in Italy than in other European media systems. Legacy news organisations have dominated the online news market for many years, with the most popular news outlets in the offline market also being the top players online. In 2022, for the first time, a digital-born outlet, Fanpage, obtained the widest online reach in our survey (21%), surpassing established broadcasters, the main Italian news agency (ANSA), and the most important newspapers. Other digital-born outlets achieving good online results are HuffPost (9%), Il Post.it (7%), and Open (4%). Conversely, the offline news market is still dominated by the main Italian broadcasters (the public service broadcaster RAI and the commercial players Mediaset, StyTg24, and TgLa7), followed by established print outlets such as La Repubblica and Il Corriere della Sera.
Those digital-born players which have successfully disrupted an otherwise stagnant Italian news industry have often adopted a focus on niches overlooked by more established outlets, younger and more cost-effective newsrooms, and a good balance between traditional and more innovative forms of journalism. Fanpage, for example, relies heavily on social media, celebrity gossip, and crime news to reach younger and larger audiences, but combines this with a track record of high-impact investigations which raises its profile and cross-media visibility. Established in 2011 just as a Facebook page, Fanpage now employs more than 60 journalists and is among the most popular Italian outlets. Similarly, Il Post.it in 2010 identified a niche of young audiences looking for political and international news free of insider jargon and behind-the-scenes details. Since then, it has focused on explainers, combining the new elements of a moving story with the background required by people coming fresh to the topic. The membership scheme introduced by Il Post.it in 2019 – a rare, if not unique, case among digital-born outlets in Italy – has recently reached 50,000 subscribers and has made it sustainable, according to its founder.1 ANSA, an established news agency which also provides its news online to the general public, has recently implemented a metered paywall.
The impact of the Italian digital transition is also evident in the changing market structure. Online advertising revenues overtook television advertising revenues for the first time in 2019, and now represent almost half (49%) of overall advertising revenues. This is a breakthrough in a media system traditionally marked by a particularly strong television sector, a weak newspaper industry, and an internet penetration that has developed more slowly than in other European countries. However, more than 80% of Italian online advertising revenues are generated by the top online platforms, notably Google and Facebook/Meta, with news media facing a general decline. In 2020, total revenues for the Italian media sector fell by over €1bn, with serious declines across the television, radio, newspaper, and magazine sectors.2 Newspapers have suffered the most, with a 31% four-year drop in the total number of print and digital copies sold.3
The suffering Italian magazine sector has seen major changes. L'Espresso, the famous centre-left Italian weekly, was sold in March 2022 by its owner, GEDI, which publishes newspapers such as La Repubblica and La Stampa. GEDI was in turn bought last year by the Agnelli-Elkann family (the largest shareholder in Stellantis, the enlarged Fiat/Peugeot car conglomerate). The La Verità group, founded by Maurizio Belpietro, the former editor-in-chief of several conservative newspapers, has also recently bought the important centre-right weekly Panorama and the popular women’s magazine Donna Moderna. The company’s main newspaper La Verità has started differentiating itself from mainstream conservative newspapers by adopting ‘alternative’ positions on sensitive topics such as vaccines, anti-COVID measures, and economic sanctions against Russia.
A podcast company, Chora Media, was established in 2020 and has recently introduced high-quality reportage from Ukraine such as Stories, the podcast series by the journalist Cecilia Sala. A final element symbolising the digital disruption of the Italian news industry is in the Italian news kiosks, the outdoor stands where print newspapers and magazines have traditionally been sold. 1,500 Italian news kiosks (10% of the total) closed in the first six months of 2020, while many others have branched out, for example by providing access to public services, such as issuing official ID cards, or selling food and drink.
Dublin City University
Newspaper readership continues to fall steadily. Television news viewership has also declined slightly but is holding up better than in many other countries. The smartphone is the main device used to get online news.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Trust in news has declined and is particularly low, with just 13% and 15% thinking that Italian media are independent from undue political and business influence, respectively. Trust in individual brands has also decreased, with outlets known for their political partisanship and Fanpage being the least trusted.