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Digital News Report: social media and mobile tech are changing how Europe consumes its news – but traditional media isn’t going anywhere fast

22 Oct 2015

Which country in Europe uses the most news apps? And where is traditional media thriving best? A new international survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford reveals changing audience habits in how they access news. Despite the growth in social networking and mobile devices, traditional media habits die hard. Headlines are often gloomy for traditional news outlets, but TV remains the main source of news even for online news users, whilst many legacy media providers have successfully transferred their offline popularity into the digital world, the report finds. The research, which examines the behaviours of more than 30,000 online news users in 18 different countries, also finds considerable variation in the adoption of mobile devices and social networks to access news content. Nonetheless, for many audiences, social media – and in particular Facebook – is often a key gateway to online news content. These findings are explored in the world’s largest and most authoritative study of digital news. In this new publication, supplementing the report published in June 2015, which covered 12 countries, the experiences of news audiences in Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Turkey are analysed for the first time. Dr David Levy, Director of the RISJ says: “Our research demonstrates the different speeds and tools with which audiences are embracing digital news. Many audiences use a wide range of traditional and digital news sources and this, coupled with a low willingness to pay for online content, underlines the continued importance of understanding your audience and the ongoing challenge of creating sustainable business models in the digital age.” What are the key findings of the report? We break it down for you: Traditional media remains important – with TV outstripping newspapers in popularity. Accessing online news is common across the countries surveyed in this report, but traditional news sources remain popular, especially TV. Newspapers are used less frequently, although print remains very popular in Austria, where 67 per cent used print newspapers in a typical week, compared to an 18 country average of just 37 per cent. Adoption of mobile devices for news is happening at different speeds. The consumption of news content on mobile devices varies across the six new countries studied. Smartphone news use is particularly common in Poland (52 per cent), and tablet access is popular in the Netherlands (25 per cent) the report finds; with high figures for both in urban Turkey (57 per cent and 24 per cent respectively). The use of smartphones and tablets, is comparatively lower in Portugal (34 per cent and 21 per cent) and the Czech Republic (34 per cent and 16 per cent) where a high proportion of digital news users access news content using a laptop or desktop computer. In the Czech Republic (83 per cent), Poland (81 per cent) and Portugal (78 per cent) desktop/laptop use for news is well above the average (68 per cent) seen across the 18 countries surveyed in the 2015 Digital News Report project. Lead author, Dr Richard Fletcher, says: “These findings suggest that, even amongst online users, the shift to mobile news access is happening at different speeds across Europe.” Domestic digital-born brands vs. global and traditional news media brands. The study reveals some positive signs for domestic digital-born news brands; online news sources without origins in print or broadcasting. In these six countries, many home-grown services are more popular than major international brands such as BuzzFeed, Vice and the Huffington Post. The survey also reveals that across the 18 nations studied by the project, the combined reach of digital-born brands is highest in Poland (75 per cent) and lowest in Austria (21 per cent). Digital-born brands are also popular in Portugal (62 per cent) and urban Turkey (67 per cent). Director of Research at the RISJ, Dr Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, observes: “Although digital-born brands play an important part in the news consumption habits of audiences, in nearly all countries, traditional news media brands continue to reach larger online audiences than their digital-born rivals.  This demonstrates the size of the challenge faced by new entrants joining a busy digital marketplace.” Social Media, led by Facebook, is a popular source for news. The report sheds light on the much-debated role of social networks as a source for news. In urban Turkey, Portugal and Poland, the proportion using social media as a source of news is well above the 18 country average. Social media as a source of news is lower in markets where consumption of traditional news brands tends to be higher, such as the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Austria. Facebook is the most popular social network for news, the researchers note, followed by YouTube, Google+ and Twitter. Twitter use for news is very high in urban Turkey (33 per cent) but lower in countries such as Portugal (7 per cent) and Poland (9 per cent), nations where overall social media use is still very high. Few pay for online news, but new Polish and Dutch models may offer a way forward. Monetising digital news is a global challenge for publishers, with many consumers unwilling to pay for online news content. Reasons for this vary from country-to-country, but the report highlights how experiments in Poland with online paywalls and subscriptions and the micropayment model of Blendle in the Netherlands offer potential insights into how models for paid news content may evolve. “The proportion of respondents who paid for online news content during the last year is, in some cases, very low,” says Nic Newman, an advisor to the study and the lead author and co-editor of the main Digital News Report.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE 2015 DIGITAL NEWS REPORT SUPPLEMENTARY STUDY This report was sponsored by Google. It is a supplement to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015, published in June 2015. The Digital News Report and the Supplementary Digital News Report can be found on their own dedicated website: ( containing slidepacks, charts, and raw data tables, with a licence that encourages reuse, subject to attribution to the RISJ. Sole responsibility for the analysis, interpretation and conclusions drawn lies with the authors and editors of the Report.