DIGITAL NUMBERS: What public sector comms need to know about the 2020 Reuters Institute Digital News Report

There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight, Goethe once wrote.

A scientist and a poet the German would have been the ideal communicator mixing hard numbers with poetry that could make your heart sing.

Numbers and stories are what’s at the heart of the Reuters Institute for Journalism Digital News Report.

What does that matter to public sector communicators?

It matters for several reasons. Media relations remain an important plank of how any organisation communicates with its publics. But beyond that, there is such crossover between journalism and communications. Both sides are trying to make sense of the changing landscape.

The Reuters study gives a useful snapshot of how people are consuming news. While its a global study there is plenty of UK data.

What’s to learn from the Reuters study

Most people don’t care about local news. Less than a third of people in the UK rank themselves as interested in local news. Public sector takeout: Think of other ways to engage people.

In the UK, COVID-19 has affected news patterns. TV news is more popular, print has dropped even further. Public sector takeout: the old regime is changing even faster.

Five times as many people use WhatsApp than read a newspaper in print or online. This bit of detail is huge. So huge in fact that I’m going to post a link to my comms chums I’m in WhatsApp groups with. But I’ll need to read the WhatsApp’d link from my brother first. UK WhatsApp use is 56 per cent against a newspaper readership of nine per cent. Almost as many – seven per cent – deliberately use it for news. Public sector takeout: WhatsApp has really developed as a place where people consume. Organisations need to think of ways to use it effectively.

Closed groups are huge. In the UK during COVID-19, 51 per cent of people are using a closed Facebook group or a closed platform like Messenger or WhatsApp. Public sector takeout: How the public sector gets its messages into closed groups is a topic we’re only starting to wake-up to.

Facebook groups on their own are huge. Globally, almost a third – 31 per cent – use Facebook groups for local news and information. Public sector takeout: it’s not enough to ignore Facebook groups.

Overall, trust in news has fallen significantly. A drop of 12 per cent in 12 months is significant. Public sector takeout: Fewer people trust the news they consume.

The BBC remains the most trusted news brand in the UK. While its news rooms diminish its reputation still remains. A total of 64 per cent trusted the BBC just ahead of ITV news (60 per cent). The Sun is trusted by 16 per cent. Public sector takeout: time spent on TV or radio interviews is worthwhile.

Local news titles are strongly trusted. At 55 per cent the local newspaper sits just behind the BBC in terms of trust. That’s music to the ears of the remaining journalists. Public sector takeout: Those that consume it value it, the only problem is not enough are.

Local newspapers’ print edition reach nine per cent of the population. Less than a tenth of the population get news printed on newspaper. So, a borough of 100,000 will see less than 10,000 reading all about it. Public sector takeout: Print gets even less important.

Local newspapers’ website reaches nine per cent of the population. Just as many people go online for their local news than buy the edition at the news stand. Public sector takeout: Local news on the web is important.

Most people get their news online and social media and over a smartphone. Over the past seven years, the web has overtaken the once all-powerful TV and print as the place where people source their news. A total of 77 per cent get their headlines online. Public sector takeout: News needs to work online above all. Content that works on the web should trump everything. So, skills to create online content should trump press release writing ability.

Facebook dominates online news. A total of 24 per cent of the UK population get news from Mark Zuckerburg’s platform. Second largest is Twitter on 14 per cent and then in third place YouTube with seven per cent. Public sector takeout: Facebook is your news priority.

People don’t start with the news website. Battling over whether or not to put news on your homepage? Meh. Only 28 per cent head to an app or website. Public sector takeout: Stop stressing about news on the homepage. That’s not where people start their journey.

They trust the doctor not the politician. Doctors are trusted by 83 per cent, health organisations by 76 per cent, national government by 59 per cent and politicians by 35 per cent. Public sector takeout: The human being talking is a lot more effective than the cabinet member. This reinforces and updates what we already know.

Everyone is worried about misinformation but it’s whether you are left or right depends on who you blame. The left in the UK at 61 per cent blames politicians. That’s six times as many who blame journalists. On the right, the gap is closer with a 27 to 11 per cent lead for blaming politicians. Public sector takeout: It doesn’t matter if we are left or right, politicians are blamed most for misinformation.

Smart speakers are used for news by in the UK one in five. More use this than in other countries. Public sector take-out: Can your news reach people on a smart speaker?

News emails are used by 38 per cent in the UK. The average is three subscriptions. Public sector take-out: Hows your email content?

Young people aged 18 to 24 use Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok as a source of news during the pandemic. In the UK, 24 per cent went to Instagram pipping Snapchat on 19 per cent and TikTok on six per cent. Public sector takeout: if you want to talk to this demographic these three are important.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: