Digital News Report Ireland 2020

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The Reuters Institute Digital News Report has been released today. The annual survey aims to understand how news is being valued and consumed globally, with a particular focus on digital news consumption and the devices used to access the news.

This is the fourth year that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has funded the inclusion of Ireland in the study, as part of its work on fostering media plurality in Ireland. The BAI commissioned the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) to produce a specific report on the Irish results of the survey for the last six years.  The data for the research was collected in January / February 2020, ahead of the impact of COVID-19.

While the research in Ireland was conducted before COVID-19 became a global crisis, the findings are relevant to the current challenges faced in Ireland, particularly when it comes to the funding of news media and the importance of journalism in public health communication and combatting disinformation. The report also features a number of essays from experts who examine the findings in the context of the present situation.

For the first time, this year’s report also includes a section detailing the use and attitude to news among those aged between 18 and 25, also known as Generation Z.

You can access the full report here and below are some of the highlights from the report this year:

Importance of independent journalism: 66% of Irish respondents believe that journalism is either very or extremely important for the proper functioning of society, with 36% of that cohort believing it is extremely important – on par with the EU average. This compares with North America, where 41% of respondents believe it is extremely important, and the UK, where 32% said it was extremely important.

Sources of news: Social media is increasingly the main source of news for 18-24-year-olds, growing from 43 per cent in 2019 to 46 per cent in 2020. Among 25-44-year-olds, digital news media is the main source, while TV is the main source for over 55s. While TV remains the main source of news overall (33%), radio (13%) continues to poll strongly in Ireland, with more Irish consumers citing this medium as their main source of news than counterparts in the UK (10%), North America (6%) and the EU (8%).

Podcasts: The research found a growth in listening to podcasts in Ireland, up three percentage points to 40% since last year. The under-45s are the largest demographic listening to podcasts, particularly 18-24-year-olds, 72% of whom said they had listened to a podcast in the past week.

Political advertising: 47% of respondents said that political advertising should be allowed on Irish television (it’s currently not permissible), while 35% said it should be allowed on social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. In terms of journalism’s response to political commentary that is incorrect or misleading, 57% of Irish people think that the media should still report on the statement because ‘it is important to know what politicians have said’. A total of 65% of respondents in Ireland – on par with their UK counterparts – believe that digital media should take responsibility for the accuracy of political ads from which they profit. The EU average was 59%, while 49% of North American respondents agreed.

Trust in news: In 2020, 48 per cent of Irish respondents agreed they could trust most news most of the time, with 27% claiming distrust in media. This compares to a distrust level of 38% in the UK, 44% in North America, and 31% in the EU. The majority of Irish respondents showed a preference for objective, balanced news, with 56% getting news from sources that don’t have a particular point of view, and 14% seeking sources of news that challenge their point of view. This latter figure is higher than the UK (9%), North America (9%) and the EU (8%).

Misinformation: Some 62% of Irish people said they were concerned about what was real and fake on the internet and the sentiment is similar in the UK and Europe. Meanwhile, the corresponding figure for North America was 67%, with the figure for those who were very concerned at 29% – substantially higher than the UK and Ireland at 18%. When it came to false or misleading information, Irish respondents were most concerned about the government or political parties in Ireland (35%), followed by activists or activist groups (19%); ordinary people (15%); foreign governments, politicians or political parties (15%). Only 7% said they were concerned about false or misleading information from journalists or news organisations, while 9% said they were not concerned about any of those sources.

Paying for news: Paying for online news in Ireland remains static at 12%, which is in line with the rest of the EU. It compares with 7% in the UK and 18% in North America. Younger people, however, are increasingly paying for news online, with the highest rate of growth among the 18-34-year age group. Taking out an online subscription to a news title is the most common way to pay for news (40%), however, there has been an increase of five percentage points in the past year in those making a donation to a digital news service, up from 18% in 2019, to 23% in 2020.

Generation Z: Some 44% of those in the 18-24-year age bracket said they were very interested in news, with the smartphone being this cohort’s main device used for accessing news, and social media being their main source of news, followed by online (28%), TV (15%) and radio (4%).

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