Latest report gives insight into how Australians consume news

Mon, Jun 20 2016

Australian news consumers are surely amongst the luckiest in the world – at least, that's what we can infer from this year's Digital News Report: Australia, published last week. It's our second annual survey and we focus on digital news consumption and pathways to accessing the news. Our online survey respondents (over 2,000 of them) told us that terrestrial TV (54%) and social media (52%) were their most popular sources of news; but when asked for one main source of news, the clear majority (38%) preferred TV news bulletins, programs and 24-hour news channels. Second place went to online news sources (27%) and the runner-up was social network services (19%).

But why are Australian news consumers so lucky?

Quite simply, because we're surrounded by an "abundance" of news content and we have little need or desire to pay a single cent for the privilege. Only 10% of our respondents said that they had paid for digital news in the past year. The majority (74%) of those not currently paying for digital news were not prepared to make any payment in future. Furthermore nearly one-quarter of Australian respondents reported using ad-blocking software. There's clearly an opportunity here for those strategists who can offer clients a PR-oriented route around the ad-blocker problem; meanwhile, the more innovative ad agencies will continue to find creative solutions to the blocking phenomenon. From the viewpoint of news organisations, simply denying site access to ad-blocking users is unlikely to provide a long-term solution when those same users can effortlessly switch to an alternate and free news platform.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook is the platform to watch.

Our survey asked which – if any – social network services (SNS) were used for any purpose the week prior to the survey. They were then asked which SNS they used for finding, reading, watching, sharing or discussing news. Facebook tops both lists: 69% used Facebook for any purpose and 45% used Facebook for news. Even though it's designed for video content and we know Australians prefer to consume screen-based news – see the first paragraph – YouTube comes a fairly distant second in both categories (52% for any purpose and 15% for news respectively).

Obviously the demographic breakdown confirms that younger Australian prefer social networks for news over traditional platforms and I agree with my colleagues who see no evidence that this preference will change as this demographic ages. So this means that Facebook (or whatever SNS replaces it in time) will become the default source of news for the majority of consumers with reliable network access. Assuming that not too many Facebook users look carefully to find out which agency, publisher or broadcaster supplied the news video clip recommended to them by a friend, it's not clear what will happen to the value of established news brands if and when Facebook becomes the main access point for their content. Will they become invisible or flourish within Facebook's huge network of users? One thing is certain – if your agency does not have an effective capacity to utilise social platforms on behalf of your clients, look to rectify this immediately. 


Author: Jerry Watkins, Director of the News & Media Research Centre at University of Canberra and lead author of the Digital News Report: Australia 2016. Jerry has over 20 years’ high-profile experience in brand experience, financial communication and investor relations.

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