Social media as a news source shows decline

Use of social media for news among Irish consumers is falling while understanding of how news appears in their social media feeds remains low. Consumers generally have limited understanding of how news appears in their social media feeds, a yearly analysis aimed at gaining understanding on how news is  consumed nowadays both in Ireland and overseas.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report focuses on digital news consumption and the devices used to access news. It found that in Ireland only 28 per cent of those interviewed said they understand the role of algorithms – a point ahead of the international average, while 73 per cent did not know the answer or assumed that social media firms employ journalists.

In line with worldwide trends, there was a slight decline in using social media for news. As a news source in Ireland, Facebook dropped from 71 per cent in 2015 to 67 per cent this year. The decline is greater in the US, where use of Facebook for news has down by nine per cent since 2014. However, Instagram as a news source doubled from 2015 to 26 per cent in 2018.

Key points arising from the research include:

Paying for news: There is a slight but steady increase in consumers paying for news. In Ireland, payment rose from seven per cent in 2015 to 12 per cent in 2018, which is in line with the EU average. Growth in payments among the 24-to-34 age group rose by six per cent to 19 per cent. The study also found a growing willingness among those who do not pay for news to start paying through a subscription (20 per cent) or donation (22 per cent).

Radio as a source of news: Irish consumers’ choice of radio as their main source of news is the highest of all 37 countries surveyed. Some 13  per cent of Irish respondents cited radio as their main source of news, compared with an EU average of seven per cent and a US average of five points. Ireland has the highest rate of radio listenership for news.

Podcasts: Podcasts are more popular among news consumers in Ireland than with their counterparts in the Europe, the UK or US. It found that 38 per cent of those surveyed in Ireland listen to podcasts, compared with 33 per cent of those in the US and 18 per cent in the UK. The report said the average among EU members is 27 per cent.

Trust: At 71 per cent, Irish consumers are more trusting of “most news” than the EU average (62 per cent), with trust rising to 78 perr cent in news they specifically choose to consume. However, Irish consumers have low trust in social media (28 per cent). Trust levels in social media in the US were 19 per cent and 17 points in the UK.

Disinformation: More than half of Irish news consumers (57 per cent) said they were concerned about ‘fake news’, similar to the UK figure of 58 per cent. While 61 per cent of Irish consumers said they were very or extremely concerned about stories made up for political or commercial reasons, only 17 per cent recalled seeing this kind of disinformation.

In terms of addressing disinformation, some 63 per cent of Irish consumers said it was the Government’s responsibility to do more, while 76 per cent believe journalists and media companies should do more. This tallies with the international figures, with journalists on 75 per cent and governments scoring 64 per cent.

It is the fourth year that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has funded the inclusion of Ireland in the study, as part of its work in fostering media plurality. The BAI commissioned the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) at DCU to produce the report on the Irish results. The data for the research was collected in January and February.






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