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Audio Plays New Role As Reuters Institute Sees ‘Great Platform Reset’ In News Habits.

The Reuters Institute states that a "great platform reset" is taking place, reflecting significant changes in how people access news. It points to a “significant further decline” in the use of Facebook for news and a growing reliance on alternatives, like podcasting — a medium it notes is already used by 44% of Americans each month. The Institute’s annual Digital News Report shows the journey to something new is just beginning, especially considering the role generative AI will play.

“Our data suggest we are now at the beginning of a technology shift which is bringing a new wave of innovation to the platform environment, presenting challenges for incumbent technology companies, the news industry, and for society,” its authors write. They point to a strong shift towards video-based digital networks such as YouTube and TikTok, which have grown in importance for news since the pandemic reset habits. But traditional media still plays a role.

“One of the reasons why news video consumption is higher in the U.S. than in most European countries is the abundant supply of political content from both traditional and non-traditional sources,” the report says.

Yet the Institute says just 4% only use online video. “The majority use a mix of text, video, and audio,” it says.

The Institute says 12% of people specifically turn to local radio for news each week seeking news. That is roughly in line with the 14% that read the local newspaper. Local television news is the most-used news source, at 28% weekly reach according to the report.

Trust in news has “remained stable” in the U.S. since 2024, with a third (32%) of those surveyed saying they believe what they hear, see or read. Local TV broadcasters have the highest trust scores, at nearly double (62%) that rate.

“Low trust scores in some countries such as the U.S. can be partly linked to high levels of polarization and divisive debates over politics and culture,” it says.

The Institute says news ambivalence remains a factor in many countries. A majority 52% of Americans say they have little interest in news. But the number is down 15% from 2015. The report says women and young people make up a significant proportion of that decline.

“The underlying reasons for this have not changed,” it says. “Selective news avoiders say the news media are often repetitive and boring. Some tell us that the negative nature of the news itself makes them feel anxious and powerless.”

The data shows 43% of Americans say they are “worn out” by the news. That is up three points from 2019. A fix may be offering more local content. Across nearly all age groups, the Institute says local news is the most sought-after type of content.

The authors also point out that the news business is facing steep economic challenges. They say the U.S. news industry shed jobs “at a precipitous rate” over the last year, calculating total losses of nearly 2,700 positions in 2023. Newspapers continue to be hit the hardest, as Medill School research found 2.5 local newspapers closed every week during 2023. It predicts by the end of 2024, the U.S. will have lost a third of its newspapers versus 2005.

One way to respond is many print publishers are exploring different formats, such as podcasts, as they have built their own audio platforms to grow their reach at a lower cost than video would require. Yet the news habit is slow to catch on.

Across 20 countries where the Institute has been measuring podcast consumption since 2018, over a third (35%) of those surveyed have accessed one or more podcasts in the last month, but just 13% regularly access a news selection.

“News podcasting remains a bright spot for publishers, attracting younger, well-educated audiences but is a minority activity overall,” the report says. “The share of podcast listening for news shows has remained roughly the same as it was seven years ago.”

The data shows podcasts continue to attract younger, richer, and better educated audiences, with news and politics shows heavily skewed towards men. The Institute theorizes that is partly due to the dominance of male hosts. It also finds many markets have become saturated with content, making it hard for new shows to be discovered and for existing shows to grow audiences.

The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2024 is based on a YouGov survey of more than 95,000 people in 47 countries representing half of the world's population.

Download the full report HERE.

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