More Australians are paying for news but trust is down

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More Australians are paying for online news but trust has fallen to pre-COVID levels, according to the Digital News Report (DNR): Australia 2022 released by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Center (N&MRC).

The research team surveyed more than 2,038 adult Australian news consumers and found that 18% are now paying for news, five points higher than last year and now sitting above the global average (17%).

However, in comparison to other online media, news is faring worse when compared to other subscriptions, with 67% of Australians paying for video streaming services, 45% for music and 21% for audio books or podcasts.

28% of Millennials are paying for news (up 12 points from last year), as young people in Australia being more likely to pay for news continues, in contrast to the global data.

Sora Park, lead author, said: “This year’s data reveals promising signs that digital news subscriptions are gradually growing, and Australians may be accquiring the habit of subscribing to digital news content, after a long period of stagnation.

“Very few consumers indicate that they will increase the number of online media subscriptions and younger consumers don’t want to be tied down to a single subscription, so the increase in paying for news may be a short-term lift.”

Trust in news has fallen

This year’s report found news trust in news had fallen slightly to 41% (down two points from last year), to return to its long-term trend.

The research team found that low trust in news may be linked to how news organizations manage personal data, as less than one-third (30%) of respondents trust them to use their data responsibly.

The report also found a correlation between those with low trust in news, and higher levels of avoidance; 77% of those who do not trust news also avoid news.

“COVID-19 was an opportunity for news media to pause sensationalism and regain trust. However, this trust was not sustained,” said Dr Park.

“Many Australians do not believe news media are independent, or that they put society first. And these perceptions are linked to a deep cynicism and mistrust in news.”

One in five Australians don’t pay attention to climate change news

Just one third of Australians are interested in news about environment and climate change, with one in five reporting they don’t listen to news of that nature.

The report found the two main predictors of disengagement are age and political orientation, as those over 76-years-old and identifying as right-wing are most likely to disengage (35% and 29%).

Entities reported wanting more news responded focused on what governments and large companies should do about climate change (42%), compared to individuals’ responsibility (16%).

The report also found concern about climate change is divided across the political spectrum, with 81% of the left but just 32% of the right expressing concern.

Dr Park: “The survey found there is a much stronger demand for news to play an advocacy role in reporting climate change than general news.

“For general news, people want news outlets to reflect a range of views, so they can make up their own mind about an issue. However, when it comes to news about climate change, four in ten say news outlets should pick a side.”

“This is a notable departure from a tradition of impartiality that many news consumers appear to find untenable in the face of the climate emergency.”

Other findings:

  • For the first time since 2016, a slight increase in general print news consumption was reported (22%) up two points on last year, and three percentage points increase in regional or local newspaper consumption.
  • 52% of Australians say should not express their personal opinion on social media platforms.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents now actively avoid the news, which is an increase of 11% since 2017.
  • More Australians encountered Covid-19 misinformation than last year (42%, +4), with more than half (51%) of Gen Z saying they came across Covid-19 misinformation in the last week.

The full report is available to view here.

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