The 2023 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. As the Irish report enters its ninth year, it provides a comprehensive understanding of news audiences and consumption in Ireland.
This report is part of the global Reuters Digital News Report which is in its 12th year and is the largest, ongoing study of digital news consumption, taking in 46 countries. The 2023 report shows that, generally, there is a strong interest in news, and although overall news avoidance is decreasing, selective avoidance of news on specific topics, such as the war in Ukraine, is emerging.
The report covers various aspects of people’s media habits, including the sources they seek out, devices, and media brands. This year’s report includes a new section on the financial impact of the cost-of-living crisis and compares Irish data to Europe, the UK, and the US. The report also examines differences between genders and age cohorts, specifically between those who grew up with traditional media and the younger generation, who prefer social media. This insight helps to identify major fault lines in media consumption.
Ireland’s inclusion in the study has been funded by Coimisiún na Meán, who have commissioned the Institute for Future Media, Democracy and Society (FuJo) to produce a report on the Irish survey results.
The 2023 Irish report was authored by FuJo’s Colleen Murrell, Kirsty Park, David Robbins and Dawn Wheatley. The report also incorporates six essays on issues relevant to Ireland and connected to the report.
- Brian O’Donovan – The impact of tech job losses
- Nic Newman – News podcasting offers a rare bright spot for audience engagement but making them pay remains a struggle
- Dawn Wheatley – In online conversations about news, those on the edges can take centre stage
- Colleen Murrell – Licence to print
- David Robbins – The case for public funding of climate journalism
- Kirsty Park – AI and the future of news
Full report can be accessed here and below are some of the highlights from the report this year:
Interest in news : Irish consumers’ interest in news, while remaining relatively high, has fallen. The categories of ‘extremely interested’ and ‘very interested’ in news peaked during 2021 (70%) in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic but have since fallen 13pp in 2022 and a further 5pp in 2023 (52%). The ‘somewhat interested’ category shows a growing number are engaged at some level (37%), but this more nonchalant view reflects examples of selective avoidance of news seen in the report.
- The differences here between those aged 18–24 and the 65+ group could not be starker. In the ‘extremely interested’ and ‘very interested’ in news categories, young people register only 28%, whereas in 2016 they registered 53%. In 2023 those aged 65+ register 69%.
- For those Irish consumers who are avoiding news, top of the list of topics for avoidance are the war in Ukraine (41%), followed by social justice news (32%). Further down the list sits health news including Covid-19 (26%), and climate change and environmental news (21%).
Trust in news: This year, RTÉ News retains its place as the most trusted news brand in Ireland, with 71% saying they trust the public service news organisation. The Irish Times is the most trusted newspaper brand, with 70%. Irish news consumers show high levels of trust in local media – both radio (70%) and newspapers (68%). BBC News scores 68% and the Irish Independent 67%.
Misinformation and disinformation : Worries about misinformation and disinformation are growing. Concern about what is real and what is fake on the internet is comparatively high in Ireland (64%), up +6pp since last year. This compares with 50% in the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, the level of concern is at 64% in the US and is highest in the UK at 69%.
Sources of news: Respondents’ main sources of news are still television and online (excluding social media) which both sit at 32%. Television is down 9pp from the height of Covid-19 lockdowns in 2021, when viewing numbers surged as people sat on their sofas night after night. Social media overall is back up to 20% after falling in 2021 to 16%. Radio sits at 11% and printed newspapers at 5%. For 18–24-year-olds social media is the most important source of news at 39%, followed by online (excluding social media) at 31%. For these ‘social natives’, TV sits at 18%, radio at 5% and printed newspapers at 5%.
Smartphone use: Smartphone use to access news has levelled off this year, down 5pp to 67% but it is still by far the most used device for this purpose. The percentage of people going directly to a news website (41%) is also down -4pp compared to last year, with consumers increasingly accessing news indirectly via social media (38%) or via search engines.
Podcasts: Listening to podcasts remains a very popular pastime in Ireland (44%), compared to the US (41%), Europe (34%) and the UK (30%). The most popular category of podcasts for Irish listeners is lifestyle podcasts (19%), followed by ‘specialist subjects’ (17%). These two subjects were particularly popular among 18–24-year-olds, with lifestyle at 32% and specialist subjects at 30%. Podcasts about news, politics and international events are up 1pp overall (14%).
Personalised news: Only a quarter of Irish people (25%) agree that it is better to have a human editor/journalist select or curate what they consume, while 31% believe that it is better to see news selected by an algorithm, based on their viewing history and preferences. Interestingly however, more than half of Irish news consumers (53%) ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’ that personalised news may cause them to miss important news stories, while 51% are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about encountering only those viewpoints which accord with their own.
Most popular digital brand : RTÉ is the most popular digital brand (and offline brand), and the size of its digital audience indicates that one in four people (24%) are consuming the public service broadcaster’s content online. Most outlets are down between 1-3pp over the past year, apart from the BBC and the Irish Mirror online, which remain steady. Sky News is the only brand to show any increase (+1pp) in digital audiences over the past 12 months.
Paying for news:The Irish Times (41%) and the Irish Independent (32%) top the poll of publications attracting subscriptions/memberships. Interestingly after these two Irish publications come a set of outlets headquartered abroad: the Guardian (14%) and the New York Times (14%) tied, as did the Times/Sunday Times (10%), and the Daily Telegraph (10%), followed by the Economist (8%).
Climate change and environment news : Climate change and environment news topped the poll (44%) of subjects seen as worthy of extra government resourcing. In second place were ‘less well served groups’ (33%) such as the Irish Traveller community, immigrant communities and the disabled audience. Local council meetings came in at 31% and courts coverage (22%) was next. Courts coverage is about to be improved through a financial grant scheme managed by Coimisiún Na Meán.
Cost-of-living : Questions about the cost-of-living crisis were included this year as contextual information shedding a light on media issues. Ireland tops the poll in our comparative media markets with 83% of respondents saying they had been affected ‘a great deal’ and ‘somewhat’ by the crisis. In these combined categories Europe is -5pp lower (78%), the US is -4pp lower (79%) and the UK (72%) is -11pp lower than Ireland. The highest number of Irish respondents who said they had been affected ‘a great deal’ were the 45-54 cohort and 55–64-year-olds (42%).