The 2022 Reuters Digital News report has been released today. The annual survey looks at how news is being valued and consumed around the world, with a particular focus on digital news consumption, and the devices people use to access the news. Irelands inclusion in the study has been funded by The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), who have commissioned the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) to produce a report on the Irish survey results.
This year’s Irish report was authored by FuJo’s Colleen Murrell, Kirsty Park, David Robbins, and Dawn Wheatley. YouGov gathered the data for this year’s Digital News Report between the last week of January and the first week of February 2022. In Ireland, this period followed on shortly from 21st January, the date that Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced, “the lifting of almost all COVID-19 restrictions” following “an unprecedented health emergency”.
Last year’s 2021 Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland) had some good news for the media, which saw audiences and readers return in higher numbers as they followed press conference updates on television, radio and online. The audience had also reported more trust in mainstream media brands and some distancing from social media in terms of pandemic news.
The 2022 Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland) is perhaps not such a happy read for media companies, with the data showing that interest in news is down, and consumers are demonstrating tactical news avoidance on issues – such as the pandemic – which they see as depressing or liable to lower their mood. Nonetheless, Irish consumers still have a considerable interest in news.
The report features six essays by Dublin City University media researchers. Eileen Culloty examines new EU legislation heading our way and David Robbins asks if reporters in Ireland are doing a good job at reporting on climate change. Tetyana Lokot, a DCU academic from Ukraine, explores how the Russian invasion is being covered by local and international journalists. Colleen Murrell finds that radio listening is still important for Irish audiences and that podcasting is changing how some audio stories are heard. Dawn Wheatley warns against incorporating the kind of polarising content that is prevalent in some countries. And Kirsty Park finds that Generation Z is the cohort with the least interest in news, the least engagement with news brands and the most likely to avoid news.
The full report can be accessed Here
Key findings Include:
• In comparison to last year, there is a distinct fall in the number of Irish consumers who are ‘extremely interested’ in news (down 6 percentage points) and those who are ‘very interested’ in news (-7pp). Nonetheless, the overall interest in news for Ireland across these two categories is 57%. We therefore compare favourably to markets such as North America (47%), the UK (43%) and Europe (49%).
• Irish consumers named local news – regional, city or town – as the area of news in which they are news (63%) and third, news about COVID-19 (50%).
• 83% of Irish consumers access news at least once a day via any platform.
• Although Irish consumers remain very engaged with news, 41% of people say they select to ‘often or sometimes’ avoid the news. This number is up 9pp from 2019. The most common reason cited was ‘too much coverage of subjects like politics/coronavirus’ (43%) followed by the news having ‘a negative effect on my mood’ (41%).
• In 2021 we reported that 41% of consumers cited television as their MAIN source of news, which was up 8pp from 2020. As we predicted then, this did turn out to be a blip related to COVID-19 lockdowns, and in 2022 that number has dropped back to 35%.
• For the first time in Ireland, the smartphone has taken prime position as the FIRST DEVICE that most consumers reach for to access news in the morning (35%). There are significant differences in age groups, with 46% of the 18-24 cohort turning first to the smartphone versus only 19% of those aged 65+. For the latter cohort, 46% still turn on the radio first thing in the morning.
• More than half of respondents say they ‘tend to agree’ (46%) or ‘strongly agree’ (6%) with the statement about trusting ‘most news most of the time’. A further one in four respondents (25%) are neutral on the question of trust.
• When you combine the figures for people who ‘tend to agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ that most news is trustworthy most of the time, the figures for Ireland (52%) are considerably higher than those in other markets, such as the UK (34%), North America (34%), and EU countries (42%).
• RTÉ News remains the most trusted news brand in Ireland at 74%. The Irish Times is the second most trusted brand at 71% with local or regional radio coming third at 70%. Local or regional newspapers tied fourth on the list, with a 69% trust score.
• For the first time, the Digital News Report asked this year’s respondents how politically divided they perceived the news organisations in their country to be. Most respondents in Ireland believe the main news outlets to be close together (62%), which is higher than the EU average (51%), North America (42%), and the UK (35%).
• There is still concern about fake news and misinformation. 58% of Irish consumers are concerned, compared to EU respondents at 48%. In the UK and North America the numbers of people concerned are higher (61% and 60% respectively).
• For Irish consumers COVID-19 is the topic associated with the most false or misleading information, with 42% saying they had seen something related to the pandemic, although this is down from 49% in 2021.
• Subscription payments have remained steady in Ireland this year, with 16% of respondents having paid for online news content. It is younger audiences who are more likely to make payments, with almost one in four of the under 35s paying for news in the previous year (24% of 18-24s, and 23% of 25-34s).
• 34% of respondents in Ireland said they had registered with a news outlet over the previous year, such as by providing an email address or setting up an account to expand access to content.
• Irish consumers were asked this year how they thought different online companies used their personal data. They believe online retailers to be the most trustworthy, with 39% of respondents agreeing that they trusted these companies to use their data responsibly, compared with 35% for news organisations and 26% for social media sites.
• The top five most frequently used traditional news brands are: RTÉ TV News, RTÉ Radio News, Sky News, BBC News and Virgin Media TV News. The top five most frequently used digital brands are: RTÉ News Online, The Journal.ie, Independent.ie, Irishtimes.com, and BreakingNews.ie.
• WhatsApp continues to be the most used social media application for any reason, with 70% of respondents using it.
• Academics, scientists and other experts are by far the most trusted sources on news about the environment, and they feature in news coverage of climate change across all the markets compared in our survey. Trust in these sources is relatively high in Ireland (49%), but in the UK the authority of scientists and academics is even more widely accepted (57%).
• Nine out of ten people are paying attention to climate change coverage in the media. 44% of respondents believe that the news media should focus on governments and large corporations, while 21% believe the focus should be on what ordinary citizens can do.