The digital age has flooded our lives with information. Being more connected also makes it difficult to escape from today. But this overexposure is making news consumers picky. More and more people are avoiding certain topics like the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, political crises or the high cost of living, either because they are fed up, because they find them depressing, or because they don’t trust the sources. This is one of the key conclusions of the Digital News Report 2022, prepared by the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, based on more than 93,000 interviews with consumers from 46 countries, and a benchmark in the press sector.
There are more noticeable trends. For example, 15% of Spanish young people under 25 use the social network TikTok for information. Or that trust in the news continues to fall, so that for the first time there are more skeptics (39%) than people who trust media reports (32%). No header achieves the trust of 50% of respondents in their country of origin. In Spain, interest in the news has fallen by 30 points in the last seven years: the proportion of people who were very interested in the news was around 85% in 2015 and barely reached 55% in 2022. Of course, podcast usage among Spaniards (41% say they’ve listened to at least one in the last month) is one of the highest in the sample.
But the big news is that 38% of consumers admit they avoid certain types of messages either often or sometimes (up from 27% in 2017). In Brazil, for example, more than half of respondents (54%) fall into this group. Next come the UK (46%) and the US (42%), while Spain (35%) is below average. It also turns out that the topics that are avoided the most (mainly the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living) align with the media’s main editorial bets. “This could explain why, despite the fact that we are experiencing periods of high uncertainty, news consumption has not increased all that much,” the document says.
The main reason given by respondents for reluctance to consume after which news is that it has a negative effect on their mood. They also claim that there is too much information and that it is “biased information”. That doesn’t mean they necessarily turn to alternative sources like blogs or streamers. “Often they just don’t want to know anything about it. Bad news triggers anxiety and psychological problems in some people,” said Nic Newman, lead author of the study.
There is no typical profile of a selective news consumer, but some characteristics help to understand who they are. “In general, they tend to be young, predominantly female, and have low income and education levels,” Newman says. “In Spain, those who identify as left tend to avoid certain news items more than others,” adds the researcher.
How to deal with disinterest
What should the media do to win back these readers, listeners and viewers? There is no clear strategy, but Newman identifies a few avenues that emerge from his study’s conclusions. First of all, it is important to make the news more accessible and understandable. “It’s one of the reasons why the youngest and the less educated choose to avoid certain information. Adding more explanations, answering questions from the audience and using digital formats like video or podcasts can help,” says the expert.
Second, the Reuters Institute researcher points to what he calls constructive journalism. “We need to find more ways to cover complex stories that give hope or actively engage audiences,” says Newman, citing environmental reporting as an example.
After all, the great job of the media is to work on the trust and credibility they exude. 28% of Spaniards surveyed say they avoid certain news items because they don’t trust the source or believe it is biased. “Offering more opinion and not labeling everything as exclusivity or breaking news can help gain ground.”
EL PAÍS, the written medium that inspires the most trust
The Digital News Report 2022 ranks EL PAÍS as the written medium that generates the most trust among consumers. 42% of respondents believe that the newspaper offers truthful and contradictory information, four points less than Antena 3, the medium that tops the ranking, and 13 more than Telecinco, which closes the list.
EL PAÍS is also the medium with the most subscribers (180,000, of which 143,000 digital according to the study based on data from the beginning of the year; the current figures are over 200,000 and 164,200 respectively).
According to the report by the Reuters Institute, EL PAÍS also leads the online consumption metrics calculated by GfK since January of this year, which give consumption per user more priority than consumption per device, the previous reference. The new methodology gives more importance to read time and rewards loyalty to the header to penalize clickbait content.
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