Executive Summary and Key Findings of the 2020 ReportNic Newman | Senior Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
This year’s report comes in the midst of a global health pandemic that is unprecedented in modern times and whose economic, political, and social consequences are still unfolding. The seriousness of this crisis has reinforced the need for reliable, accurate journalism that can inform and educate populations, but it has also reminded us how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation. Journalists no longer control access to information, while greater reliance on social media and other platforms give people access to a wider range of sources and ‘alternative facts’, some of which are at odds with official advice, misleading, or simply false.
Much of the data in this publication was collected before the virus hit many of the countries featured in this survey, so to a large extent this represents a snapshot of these historic trends. But to get a sense of what has changed, we repeated key parts of our survey in six countries (UK, USA, Germany, Spain, South Korea, and Argentina) in early April. These responses confirm industry data which show increased consumption of traditional sources of news, especially television, but also some online news sources.
Journalism matters and is in demand again. But one problem for publishers is that this extra interest is producing even less income – as advertisers brace for an inevitable recession and print revenue dips. Against this background it is likely we’ll see a further drive towards digital subscription and other reader payment models which have shown considerable promise in the last few years. This is what makes it so important to understand how various models are progressing in different markets, such as the United States, Norway, and the UK, where we have conducted more in-depth research on pay this year. While the coronavirus crisis is likely to dramatically affect the short-term prospects for many publishers, our findings provide long-term insights into one important part of the future of the business of news. We also ask about the implications for society if more high-quality information disappears behind paywalls, a dilemma that has become more real during this health emergency.
Looking to the future, publishers are increasingly recognising that long-term survival is likely to involve stronger and deeper connection with audiences online, which is why we have also examined the growing importance of emails and podcasts, formats that are being deployed in greater numbers to increase engagement and loyalty. The coronavirus crisis has presented an immediate and urgent existential threat, but in the section on climate change, we explore how audiences access news about this longer-term threat to human existence and how they feel about media coverage.
Our report this year, based on data from six continents and 40 markets, aims to cast light on the key issues that face the industry at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. The overall story is captured in this Executive Summary, followed by Section 2 with chapters containing additional analysis, and then individual country and market pages in Section 3 with detailed data and extra context.