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June 17, 2024, 12:04 p.m.
Business Models

Worldwide, news publishers face a “platform reset”

Some findings from RISJ’s 2024 Digital News Report.

“News use across online platforms is fragmenting”: That’s one of the findings from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) in its 2024 Digital News Report, out Monday. As the use of Facebook for news declines, a number of other platforms — YouTube, TikTok, WhatsApp — are picking up the slack, “with six networks now reaching at least 10% of our respondents, compared with just two a decade ago.”

RISJ has released a digital news report every year since 2012. This year it surveyed more than 90,000 people in 47 countries (new this year: Morocco) about their news consumption, via a YouGov survey. Below, Nieman Lab’s team breaks out a few of the main findings. And stay tuned because we’ll be running two more pieces by RISJ researchers over the coming week — one on how people are paying for news, and one on yet another pivot to video.

The real divide isn’t left vs. right, but…

One of the most useful roles the Digital News Report plays for an American audience is to remind us that phenomena that may seem eternal — as immutable as the sun rising in the east — are not, in fact, universal.

For instance, it has been a bedrock stylized fact of recent decades that, when it comes to trust in the U.S. news media, political ideology is a huge factor. Liberals trust journalists much more than conservatives do. See, for instance, this chart from Gallup differentiating trust levels between Democrats and Republicans. The narrow esophagus of the 1970s through 1990s expands into the gaping maw of the Trump years, with Democrats forming the hard palate and Republicans the lower mandible.1

So compare that to this chart from the DNR. It records the responses of 92,939 people around the world to this statement: “I think you can trust most news most of the time.” The shares who trust are virtually identical across left, right, and center — with conservatives actually trusting the media a tad more than liberals globally.

Indeed, if there’s a through line in the trust portions of this year’s DNR, it’s that the elements that lead people to trust news aren’t as variegated as one might expect.

We find high standards, a transparent approach, lack of bias, and fairness in terms of media representation are the four primary factors that influence trust. The top responses are strongly linked and are consistent across countries, ages, and political viewpoints. An overly negative or critical approach, which is much discussed by politicians when critiquing the media, is seen as the least important reason in our list, suggesting that audiences still expect journalists to ask the difficult questions.

…Most of the public want news to be accurate, fair, avoid sensationalism, be open about any agendas and biases including lack of diversity, own up to mistakes — and not pull punches when investigating the rich and powerful. People do not necessarily agree on what this looks like in practice, or which individual brands deliver on it. But what they hope news will offer is remarkably similar across many different groups.

Instead of a left-right thing, the report repeatedly locates a different divide — between people who are interested in news and politics and those who are not.

Check out this nifty chart that looks at how much different ideological groups say they value different qualities when determining whether or not to trust a news outlet. The three outer bands — representing left, center, and right — are all clustered together, much more similar to each other than any is to those who “don’t know” where they fit on an ideological scale.

In discussions often focused on partisan division, this latter, large group is sometimes overlooked. Younger people, people with limited formal education, and people with lower incomes are more likely to be part of it. (Just as they are likely to trust the news less than the public at large.) It is also a group that is over-represented among consistent news avoiders and casual users, so often these are people who have a tenuous connection not only with conventional party politics, but also with the news.

You get a similar chart if you divide people into those who describe themselves as “extremely” or “very” interested in politics and those who aren’t.

…for a large minority of the public with a distant relation to politics —a fifth of our respondents don’t know where they stand in conventional political terms ± trust in news is much lower, many of them are less clear about what might help engender trust, and their connection with news is generally more precarious. The same goes for the overlapping group of respondents who are not interested in politics — more than a third.

The challenge for news media with this part of the public is to overcome the distance and convince them that news is engaging, interesting, and valuable enough to spend time with — and on that basis perhaps over time earn their trust as well.

That said, the report does note that there is substantial variation between countries and among news platforms when it comes to trust levels. A few that stand out:

  • Partisan differences in trust show up more on some platforms than on others. For example, in the United States, liberals and conservatives think they can identify trustworthy or untrustworthy information on Facebook, Google, and TikTok at roughly equal levels. But on Twitter, liberals are twice as likely as conservatives (36% vs. 18%) to say they “find it difficult to tell apart trustworthy and untrustworthy news and information.” (Gee, I wonder what might have contributed to that confusion!)
  • Trust in media remains highly country-driven, with the usual split between the high-trust Scandinavians (led by Finland’s 69% trusting) and low-trust southern Europeans (23% trusting in Greece and Hungary). The U.S. comes in closer to the low end at 32%.
  • Who are the individual personalities that people say they trust for news on platforms? “The top 10 named individuals in the U.S. list are all men who tend to express strong opinions about politics.” Okay, maybe some things are eternal.

— Joshua Benton

“Resistance to total automation”

Awareness of AI continues to be quite low across the 28 markets in the report where AI survey questions were included. While some surveyed spoke directly about ChatGPT or generative AI, only about 45% said they had heard or read “a large or moderate amount” about the topic. For many, their knowledge still appears to come from the movies, so to speak. Sci-fi TV and film came up frequently in interviews, including asides to The Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Turns out, the general public has still mostly seen AI depicted as fiction, not fact. That may be one factor in the overall resistance to AI adoption that the report found.

Only about 36% of people — a clear minority — felt comfortable consuming news made by humans with the help of AI. That percentage shrunk by nearly half, to just 19%, for consuming news made by AI with human oversight. Overall, the report seems to show news consumers are coming to the topic of AI with suspicion or fear.

That said, there are indicators that the more people become aware of AI — and not just its place in dystopian fiction — the more they’re comfortable with its use in journalism. For people who have heard or seen more about AI, their comfort level jumped to 45% for news mostly produced by humans, with AI assistance. Similarly, there was an increase to 26% for news produced mostly by AI.

Across the board, respondents expressed resistance to total automation — using generative AI to create news from scratch. While there was more openness to its use on beats like sports, than for political news, the sentiment was still that humans should always be “in the loop.”

Altogether these figures confirm that healthy, widespread adoption of generative AI in journalism would be a delicate balancing act. It may require first raising public awareness and educating readers on what AI adoption actually looks like, in order to not alienate core audiences or subscriber bases.

But that still leaves open interesting questions about disclosure. Many readers expressed that they simply would not take the time to read news if they knew it was produced by AI. “If it was disclosed to me that this was produced by an AI [I] will probably go, ‘Okay, well, then I’ll just not read that,’” said one 40-year old respondent from the U.K. But publishing AI-assisted news without disclosure has already proven a dangerous path for publications that have later been outed and criticized as lying to their readership. “News organizations and journalists should always let consumers know that they have used AI…so consumers can make the decision themselves of whether they want to consume this content or not,” said a 28-year-old respondent from the U.S.

This poses a bit of a trust paradox for publishers actively using AI tools. News organizations around the world are already fighting against declining trust in news media. Generative AI adoption has the danger of being an accelerator for that decline, if not approached with moderation and transparency. All in all, readers simply don’t see generative AI tools as having the emotional intuition, analytical skill or ethics that they expect of their journalists. As one 28-year-old respondent from Mexico put it, “[AI] does not have a moral compass.”

— Andrew Deck

Few readers want “just the facts”

What people want or need from the news media depends on whom you ask. To help quantify those differences the researchers behind this year’s Digital News Report put together a model called “User Needs 2.0” that identified eight user needs, collected into four broad categories: Knowledge, Understanding, Feeling, and Doing.

Across the 47 markets surveyed, the researchers found that most people said the “knowledge” and “understanding” categories were most important to them, followed by “doing” and then “feeling.” In particular, people said they wanted the news to both keep them up to date with world events and educate them about those events. “Information that is diverting or that helps people solve problems may be more important overall to their lives,” the authors write, “but may not be something that they expect the news media to provide.” In other words, there are other places people can find their diversions — although the survey didn’t look at, say, whether or not people are coming to the news media for things like games and other non-news products, which are becoming an increasingly big business.

What the survey also found, however, was that even though the “feeling” category ranked last overall, many people felt that the news media could do a better job catering to that category — in particular, publishing stories that made them feel better about the world, which was particularly emphasized by news avoiders and young people.

The researchers also found that users’ answers for what they wanted from the news changed according to how free the press was in their home country. In countries with less press freedom, people emphasized the basic need for knowledge. In countries with more press freedom, they looked instead for a better understanding of what was happening in the world:

Overall, few readers want “just the facts” — more often, they’re looking to the news media to satisfy a range of needs, and in particular they want to engage with current events on a level that requires going beyond just reporting the latest developments. And, the report’s authors caution, even though there might be a tendency to assume that young people and news avoiders only want to be entertained rather than informed (and they do, in fact, lean a bit more towards diverting or inspiring news than other groups), even they emphasize the needs for knowledge and understanding above the others. “The news media may be able to appeal to hard-to-reach groups by providing diverting or inspiring content,” the authors write, “but the data suggest that this should not come at the expense of coverage that explains and informs.”

— Neel Dhanesha

Dispatches from news across the world

Here are some of the most interesting bits from the report’s individual Country Reports.

From the United Kingdom:

BBC News remains dominant offline and online, although Digital News Report data show that reach has fallen over time, especially with younger audiences. The Gaza conflict has tested the BBC’s approach to impartiality, with coverage attracting criticism from both sides. With an election due in 2024, and amid concerns about potential for AI-generated fakes, the BBC has been stepping up its attempts to fact-check statements, videos, and images, under the banner BBC Verify.

Finally, a sign of the times is how a fictional TV drama (“Mr. Bates vs the Post Office” from ITV) was able to move both the public and politicians about the wrongful convictions of British postmasters. Measures to resolve the historic injustice have been widely welcomed but the drama’s success has also highlighted the diminished power of journalists, since news media had reported the scandal for years, largely without results.


In 2022, the federal government collected €96m through the digital tax, introduced in 2020, which targets internet advertising services not already covered by a pre-existing tax. The proceeds contribute to the Fund for the Promotion of Digital Transformation, endowed with €20m annually. In 2023, the digital tax generated €103m and the Austrian Regulatory Authority RTR has allocated all of that to support 115 projects.


Most commercial news websites — except the tabloid BT which relies solely on advertising — have paywalls with only limited content freely available, and our 2024 survey reports a relatively high rate of paying for news online (17%). Digital subscription prices in Denmark are quite high but many people don’t pay the full price. Public and commercial media are intensifying efforts to get users to log in and provide first-party data. Those reliant on commercial revenues hope this will improve cross-pollination between free and paid content and attract increased advertising revenues.

All Danish news organizations are investing heavily in generative AI tools and are gradually implementing them in daily news operations. In early 2024, JP/Politiken launched an in-house repository of trusted content from its three titles that can be used to drive AI experimentation, including assisting journalists with interview transcription, news text and headline generation, and in time voice clone and photo generation functions. All news organizations are experimenting with recommendation algorithms that also recognize the democratic functions of news. In February 2024, Jyllands-Posten launched a new personalizing frontpage algorithm, that tries to combine user preferences with an additional journalistic weighting score designed to avoid echo-chamber type effects. In late 2023 an updated version of the Danish rules on press ethics was produced which now specifically covers material that has been partly or wholly created using AI.


Le Monde is the first French newspaper to sign a lucrative deal with Open AI: it allows ChatGPT users to access content from Le Monde. Le Monde English, which was launched in 2022, also uses AI technologies to translate the first draft of each article, which humans then revise. There’s been no increase in the low level (11%) of our survey respondents paying for news online, but France is unusual in that our respondents who pay said they had an average of two subscriptions — which is only the case in a few of the other countries in the survey, such as the United States. Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le Mediapart are the top three outlets that people have subscribed to online and they are all seeing increases. Le Monde’s digital numbers hit 527,000, Le Figaro 227,000, and digital-born Mediapart 220,000 subscribers. The last of Mediapart’s co-founders handed over to a new female CEO/Editor-in-Chief, Carine Fouteau.


The deal between the Axel Springer media company, owner of Germany’s most popular tabloid newspaper Bild, and OpenAI has also caused quite a stir. Axel Springer has agreed to supply ChatGPT with selected content from its news brands, including Bild, Die Welt, Politico, and Business Insider, to train ChatGPT to provide information on current events. For Axel Springer the incentive is that the ChatGPT responses will link to the full Springer articles, the company will reportedly receive very significant funding for use of their content, and OpenAI will support Springer in its own AI-driven projects. In light of Springer’s digital-only strategy, the increasing use of AI is also seen as a way to save costs, i.e, through significant job cuts.

The digital transformation of the newspaper industry is accelerating due to significantly increased costs of print production and delivery. Following Bild and Die Welt’s mid-2023 announcement that they were ending home delivery of their Sunday editions, other brands, such as Tagesspiegel, Berliner Morgenpost, or Hamburger Morgenpost replaced some of their printed editions. In rural areas, some print editions have either stopped or are no longer being delivered, but getting people to switch to digital papers can be difficult. For example, in May 2023 the Ostthüringer Zeitung discontinued its print edition in rural parts of its circulation area in Thuringia. Within a year, 45% of subscriptions were cancelled.


The closure of news kiosks, the Italian outdoor stands where print newspapers have traditionally been sold, also testifies to the severity of the crisis of the Italian news industry. Nearly 2,700 news kiosks disappeared across the country in four years, with the total number dropping to approximately 13,500 by 2023. Finally, the ending from January 2024 of the obligation to publish tender and public contract information in newspapers, known as “legal advertising,” poses a new challenge, with newspapers facing losses in revenue estimated at around €40m annually. Despite pressure from publishers, the government refused to postpone the implementation of the new system.

The Netherlands:

In addition to remaining the top brand offline (no. 1) and online (no. 2) in terms of access, as well as the number 1 most trusted brand among those included in our survey, public news service NOS continues to successfully reach younger audiences on social media. Most notably, on Instagram, both their main account NOS and their initiative aimed specifically at 13-to-18-year-olds NOS Stories have — respectively — near and over a million followers. On YouTube, NOS op 3 is especially popular: this channel dedicated to weekly 10–20 minutes explainer videos has around half a million followers. However, on Instagram, the mysterious player “cestmocro” has also grown very popular, passing its millionth follower in the past year. It is still unclear who is behind this initiative. Starting out as a meme page in 2017, it has since pivoted to news, mainly reposting (with credit) and summarizing content from mainstream sources such as NOS, RTL Nieuws, CNN, and Al Jazeera. However, “cestmocro” has also been criticized for occasionally posting misinformation and failing to moderate hateful reactions in the comment section. Faced with criticism for adopting a one-sided, pro-Palestine perspective on the Israel-Hamas war, “cestmocro” responded that they “choose the perspective of the repressed and not the oppressor.”


Norwegian consumers are again those most willing to pay for news across all 47 countries surveyed this year. The proportion of paying users (40%) seems to be leveling out though. Norway has a strong newspaper reading tradition, and the transition to digital subscriptions has been promoted with hybrid solutions that typically bundle paper and digital content and by publishers’ willingness and ability to focus on a long-term approach to growing their subscriber base. This, and the absence of freesheets, helps to explain the relative success of online news payment.


Further contributing to the dynamic rise of digital video was the launch of Kanał Zero on YouTube by former sports journalist Krzysztof Stanowski. The channel quickly gained traction, attracting not only prominent journalists and experts but also high-profile guests typically featured on major news outlets. Notably, its launch on 1 February 2024 featured an interview with the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda. By March 2024, Kanał Zero had amassed an impressive subscriber base of 970,000, outpacing an unexpected competitor — the lower house of the Polish Parliament, the Sejm. The Sejm’s official YouTube channel, nicknamed Sejmflix, saw a surge in subscribers, reaching 650,000 in just a few weeks. This is five times more than the subscriber base of Germany’s Bundestag channel.


Spain’s major news companies started digital subscription strategies around 2019, later than in some other European countries. However digital news subscriptions grew significantly last year, boosted by introductory offers and discounting. Company data indicate a total of 1.1 million digital subscribers. El País (350,000 subscriptions), El Mundo (123,000), and La Vanguardia (107,000) led this ranking. However, the lack of any independent audit of subscriber numbers means the figures should be viewed with caution.

Relevo, one of the newest digital sports media in the Spanish market, launched in 2022 and owned by Vocento, has pursued a very vigorous social media strategy with more than a million followers on social media and a strong focus on TikTok and Twitch alongside Twitter and Instagram. It quickly made waves with its in-depth coverage and investigative journalism, and its 2023 exposé of the sexual scandal involving Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation, became a huge story and eventually led to his resignation.


Sweden, along with Norway, has consistently been at the top of our countries in terms of people paying for news, with our 2024 survey reporting 31% in 2024 compared to 33% in 2023. However, online news subscribers tend to be less loyal than for print, often taking up special offers for a relatively short period of time. Swedish news publishers are on a path from all free content, to some free, to working with paywalls, and are now increasing their prices.

Four Swedish news publishers with national coverage have been successful in charging for news. Two are owned by the Norwegian Schibsted group (Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet), and the other two by Sweden’s Bonnier group (Expressen and Dagens Nyheter). The Bonnier Group were recognised for developing the best reader revenue business with their Bonnier News+ solution, offering its subscribers access to online content from more than 150 newspapers and magazines.

Swedish news publishers are known for being digital forerunners. Recently, organizations such as Aftonbladet (Schibsted) and Expressen (Bonnier) have expanded into audio formats such as podcasts as well as TV. Aftonbladet has invested in news personalization, whereas Svenska Dagbladet (Schibsted) has adopted a “podcast-first” approach. As elsewhere, Swedish news publishers have started investing in and incorporating AI, to improve efficiency. For example, Aftonbladet has created an AI hub with a cross-functional team, while PSM Swedish Radio (SR) use AI in many ways, including synthetic voices and transcribing audio, but block platforms from training their AI on their content. This is in line with both PSM and commercial news publishers continuously innovating, but having become more cautious when it comes to third-party platform companies, seeking to reduce their dependence on them.


Artificial intelligence has become the talk of the day in the media industry. Anticipating a substantial transformation through generative AI, industry-wide guidelines have been formulated, and all big media companies have appointed heads of AI, created specialized AI departments, or launched processes to implement AI throughout the journalistic value chain. Audiences are skeptical toward AI-generated news. In a survey, people also indicated that they would not want to pay for AI-generated news, believing that the use of AI allows media companies to reduce costs. It seems that AI in journalism has not only highlighted the issue of trust but will also have economic ramifications.


Online news outlets tend to opt for either subscription or voluntary contributions. While legacy print media such as Perfil and El Cronista have maintained their paywalls, digital natives such as Cenital and elDiarioAR have relied on a membership system. By the end of 2023, Cenital was earning more than half its operating revenue from voluntary payments. The two top online news outlets in early 2024 were Infobae, accessed by four out of ten (40%) respondents, and the website and apps of cable news channel TN, which 30% report having visited. Neither have subscription programs. Although willingness to pay for news has increased by 3 percentage points to 15%, half of subscribers report paying less than the equivalent of two US dollars each month.


There was an unsuccessful attempt to pass a bill regulating digital platforms and misinformation last year. The tech firms fiercely opposed the “fake news bill,” which would make digital platforms responsible for preventing the spread of falsehoods and hate speech. There was even a short-lived stand-off with the government when Google put a link on its homepage opposing the law, enraging the justice minister, who threatened an hourly fine. Google backed down after a few minutes. After four years of discussions in Congress, the bill was abandoned. In April, the president of the House of Representatives, Arthur Lira, announced the creation of a group to discuss a new regulation proposal.

The downward trend in circulation for the newspaper industry was reversed last year, but mainly as a result of a change in the criteria used to calculate the number of online subscribers. The average daily paid circulation for the ten best-selling newspapers rose by almost 14% over 2022 to 1.7 million, according to Instituto Verificador de Comunicação. A change in methodology had meant that even readers who paid extremely low promotional prices were now considered subscribers.


[D]igital-born Village Media’s model of bundling local information, such as weather, classified ads, school bus schedules, and community webcams, has allowed the company to expand its network across Ontario. Digital French-language daily La Presse saw growth thanks to its boutique ad service, which asks readers to volunteer information through features such as quizzes. It also had a successful donation drive. Daily newspaper Le Devoir increased digital subscriptions by 13% and is now registered to issue tax receipts to donors.


Independent site is among those experimenting with AI, saying it publishes more than 40 articles every day using an AI-powered CMS, and consistently sees its stories trending on social media. Another example is WazNews, a virtual assistant delivering text and audio on demand via WhatsApp. After a series of AI options, users are given the option to hear news stories narrated by journalists.


More people are using TikTok for news — up 3 percentage points to 18%. Law student Gerardo Vera, 19, is one of many individuals to have used the platform to tell stories for a younger generation. Having started covering news on social media aged just 12, he now has more than 2 million followers on the platform. He produces daily videos which attempt, in his words, to “democratize public knowledge,” and has received recognition for his efforts to try to remain impartial.

New rules to regulate the use of AI are being drawn up by the Federal Telecommunications Institute, but the media aren’t waiting. One radio station, Radio Fórmula, introduced an AI generated newsreader, with the aim of delivering impartial and reliable bulletins. In our Digital News Report survey, only 37% of respondents said they feel comfortable using news produced by human journalists with the help of AI.


Peru continues to be among the five countries in the report with the largest use of TikTok for all purposes (47%) as well as for news consumption (27%).

One beneficiary of this growth has been reporter Fernando Llanos who was laid off from broadcasters America Noticias and Canal N after a 15-year career. He turned to TikTok fulltime and in a matter of weeks had gained 700,000 followers for content that includes a daily 90-second newscast “Las 5 Pepas de Llanos” (Llanos’s five scoops). Llanos seems to be monetizing his TikTok account through LIVE Gifts, a program that allows followers to send virtual gifts that can be turned into money. Our survey shows that Peruvians consume more long- and short-form video than most other countries. Among the 95% of respondents who said they use videos for news, 85% said they watch at least one news item in short-form video each week, and 39% watch every day.


Five national dailies, four of which still have seven-digit print circulation, are struggling to develop digital business models fast enough to make up for shrinking print revenues. One exception is Nikkei (Japan Economic Daily), which recently reached 1 million digital subscribers and has been pushing hard into the corporate sector as well as chasing the next generation of readers. A new premium service (Nikkei Prime) includes specialist content on technology, automobiles, and green business transformation. Minutes by Nikkei, launched in November 2023, is a product aimed at briefing young readers in a concise way. The leading business publisher, which also owns the Financial Times, now has the fifth largest digital subscriber base in the world and the largest in non-English media. By contrast, another early adopter, Asahi Shimbun, has achieved only around 300,000 digital subscribers over a similar time period. Conservative national daily Yomiuri, which at 6 million has the largest print circulation, has started to invest more in digital development while maintaining its strategy of only allowing digital access to print subscribers.

South Korea:

Korean news media have been looking to use artificial intelligence to boost efficiency and make content more relevant to audiences. Chosun Ilbo, a major daily, has developed a news-writing assistant program based on generative AI technology. Dong-a Ilbo, another daily, has developed an AI chatbot called “AskBiz” specializing in business and management content. Meanwhile, media outlets are actively looking to protect news copyright and drive compensation, after big tech companies used publisher content to train their large language models (LLMs). The Korea Press Foundation and media-related associations are working together to jointly establish the “News Copyright Forum in the AI Era” for discussing legal issues, calculating the value of news content, and establishing industry guidelines for generative AI.


Platforms like Facebook (75%), YouTube (70%), Instagram (58%), Telegram (53%), and TikTok (46%) have become popular and many use them to access bite-sized news updates and interactive content tailored to these mobile users. Additionally, podcasting has gained traction with popular news shows like Nigeria Politics Weekly and Nigeria Daily. Furthermore, media organizations are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance content personalization, to assist with fact-checking, and for customer support., which is one of the leading digital-born brands in Nigeria, uses AI to curate personalized news feeds, while organizations like Dubawa and The Cable employ AI to combat misinformation. These innovations underscore a paradigm shift in audience engagement and content delivery within the Nigerian media landscape.

— Hanaa’ Tameez

  1. Independents, of course, are the nation’s tongue. []
POSTED     June 17, 2024, 12:04 p.m.
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