There was an urgency to this year’s Digital News Report that news outlets around the world need to drastically change their approach if they are to bring consumption of their content to previous high levels. The main issues explored were the difficulty in confirming a sustainable economic model for newsrooms, distrust in digital news sources due to the spread of disinformation, and the new means being adopted by people to get their information.
Most news outlets are struggling with the switch to a subscriber-led revenue, with subscriber numbers remaining very low. The Guardian and The New York Times may have maintained great success with this change, but they are the exception rather than the norm. 55% of people worry about what is real and what is fake on the internet, with only 44% trusting the news at all. Because of this people are becoming sceptical of newer news outlets, and are returning to more established brands with a reliable reputation. In the global south there has been a shift to consulting private networks such as WhatsApp for news updates, and across the world podcasts are gaining traction as a legitimate news source.
Where does digital audio fit amongst these developments?
Due to better quality content and easier distribution methods devised over recent year’s, podcasts have become a truly established medium capable of standing toe-to-toe with heavyweight media entities. ‘The Daily’, the immensely popular news summary podcast from the New York times, is evidence of this. Attracting around 5 million listeners per day, it has garnered a strong enough reputation to be viewed as its own distinct entity and not just as an extension of the paper. Podcasts are no longer a fringe concern on the media landscape and are beginning to command the time and attention of digital news users, with over a third having accessed a podcast in the last month.
Smart speaker usage has doubled in the past year from 7% to 14% in the UK. The growing prevalence of this technology across the globe hints at a crucial dimension audio may bring to news updates in the near future. News consumption is low on the agenda for smart speaker users behind music and other more localised notifications. However, the greater role these devices play in a given individuals day-to-day media movements, the more peripheral concerns, such as checking the news, will bleed into its usage.
This is good news for audio, as publishers and news media begin to capitalise on these developments, investing heavily in podcasting and smart speaker usage which will undoubtedly lead to content being made at a higher quality. And despite the trust issues that are currently besetting other digital media, radio still remains the most trusted medium for news in Europe.