The Market is Ripe for Decentralized News Platform
Links for data redesign: https://www.journalism.org/2020/12/08/the-american-public-shows-mixed-familiarity-with-new-and-evolving-forms-of-news/ | https://www.digitalnewsreport.org/survey/2020/overview
We understand that we cannot expect the world to be perfect and there will always be opportunities to exaggerate a problem by inflating its proportion, but not only do singled-out headlines support the need for decentralized news and content sharing platforms, evidence from global surveys supports it also.
In the following section, we rely on the Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel online survey of 2,021 U.S. adults conducted on June 2-11, 2020 (methodology can be found here) and the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020 to showcase with empirical evidence that even though the consumption of online media is growing globally, people are looking for unbiased news sources yet find it hard to identify them and do not generally trust them.
We get most of our news online.
Over the last nine years, online news has been overtaking television as the most frequently used source of news in many countries. At the same time, printed newspapers have continued to decline while social media have leveled off after a sharp rise. The coronavirus crisis has significantly, though almost certainly temporarily, changed that picture. Television news has seen an uplift in all six countries where we polled in both January and April 2020.
Taking Germany as an example (see chart), a 12-point decline in reach for TV news was partially reversed as many people turned to trusted sources of news including public service media.
Other countries show a similar composition of sources from where they are getting their routine news, with Online (inc. social media) and Social media sections amassing even larger shares of attention time. When evaluated from a combined perspective, it is clear that online news consumption has surpassed legacy television and left radio as well print way behind.
Report data also suggest that the younger generation is more apt using various forms of online engagement tools and are naturally getting more information from online sources, while the older respondents still rely more on television and other legacy forms of media.
And we don't always know who's behind the story...
Amid the variety of new online platforms that society uses to access news, confusion arises when people are asked to distinguish news sources that do original reporting from those that do not.
Just a tad more than half of U.S. citizens (55%) are fairly confident they can differentiate between vendors that do original news reporting, including 46% who are pretty confident but only 9% who feel very confident. The remainder are either not too confident (35%) or not at all (8%) confident they can identify organizations that do original reporting.
The general uncertainty is also evident in respondents’ answers to fact-based questions in which respondents were shown six different sources they could get news from, and then asked: “Do you believe that each of the following does its own news reporting?” The results show that the ability to correctly identify whether news sources do their own reporting is limited – and also varies widely by source.
It is not that more Americans answer these questions incorrectly; rather, more than half say they are unsure whether each of these sources does its own original reporting. It shows a lack of media market understanding and the basic knowledge in whom is society putting the trust of getting relevant, factual and up-to-date information of the surrounding world.
Trust in the news continues to fall
As the coronavirus hit the global economy, the observed levels of trust in the news hit the all time low from the time it was being measured (see graph below). In a direct comparison with 2019 we find that fewer than four in ten (38%) say they trust most news most of the time – down four percentage points. Less than half (46%) say they trust the news that they themselves use. The declined trust in news mostly represents the lack of trust in the mainstream media and traditional sources people use whille the lack of trust in search and news from social media is due to the amount of unchecked information and the inability to distinguish news from rumours.
There is considerable divergence, ranging from countries like Finland and Portugal where over half (56%) say they trust most news most of the time, to less than a quarter in Taiwan (24%), France (23%), and South Korea (21%).
Just six countries now have trust levels of more than 50%. Notable metric differences can be observed in troubled economies with social unrest including a 16-percentage point fall in Hong Kong (30%) following violent street protests over a proposed extradition law. In Chile, which has seen regular demonstrations about inequality, the media has lost trust (-15) partly because it is seen as too close to the elites and not focusing its attention enough on underlying grievances.
The data also clearly indicates that news consumers from around the globe and in different age categories tend to prefer receiving the news with no point of view suggested to them.
Looking across nine markets we see that the majority in each country say they prefer news with no particular point of view. In a sense this is not surprising given that traditional expectations are that journalists should produce neutral and detached news, but the differences between countries are significant.
Greater political tribalism has coincided with a sudden growth of low-cost internet publishing which in turn has led to the widespread availability of partisan opinions online. With news coverage increasingly commoditized, parts of the traditional media have also focused more on strong and distinctive opinions as a way of attracting and retaining audiences. Some commentators have increasingly questioned the value of objective news in a world where people have ready access to news from so many different points of view, while others worry that social media and algorithms are encouraging echo-chambers and splitting communities apart.
The most disturbing finding is that more than half (56%) of the sampled 40 countries remain concerned about what is real and fake on the internet when it comes to news. It signals an important uncertainty about the information people are getting online. If they cannot trust the most used source, how can they separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’?
Concern tends to be highest in parts of the Global South such as Brazil (84%), Kenya (76%), and South Africa (72%) where social media use is high and traditional institutions are often weaker. The Lowest levels of concern are in less polarised European countries like the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. The biggest increase in concern came in Hong Kong this year (+6) as the conflict between the government and student protesters continued and also in Finland (+4), where a higher than average concern over false and misleading information from foreign governments can be seen.
The need for a distributed content platform is apparent
The preceding paragraph clearly illustrates the current situation in the news and media: people receive more and more news online, however, the vast amount of uncertainty makes it difficult for the public to validate credible news sources. This phenomenon is not localized to some areas of the world but rather is global and universal with even darker problems in non-democratic areas. The access of information does not necessarily ensure the quality of information. There is a need for change, there is a need for a decentralized content platform which cannot be censored, coerced, manipulated or bought.