Irish keenest digital news users in English-speaking states

Report reveals growing significance of Facebook and smartphones

Irish people are moving more quickly from traditional to digital news than consumers in any other English-speaking country, according to a new report from the Reuters Institute think tank.

The Digital News Report 2016 (Ireland) indicates we have the highest level of primarily digital consumers and of mixed traditional and digital consumers, putting Ireland ahead of the US, UK and Australia in enthusiasm for digital.

Overall, news consumption also remains particularly high in Ireland by international standards, with 84 per cent of people accessing some news every day and 53 per cent doing so several times a day.

Trust in news is higher among older age groups – however, only about half trust the news in general, while fewer trust news organisations and fewer again trust journalists. Users of traditional brands are more trusting of news than users of digital news, and in turn more trust traditional journalists than digital. There is a lack of faith in the independence of the news media, with some consumers believing commercial and political influences exist.


Shift to digital

The inexorable shift to digital continues, with declines in the TV, radio and print share of the audience. Levels of consumption for traditional news brands have shrunk further since 2015, with RTÉ television news down 7 per cent and Sky News down 6 per cent. Local and regional newspapers experienced the sharpest fall, down 9 per cent.

However, many traditional news providers, including RTÉ News Online, The Irish Times and Irish Independent, have increased their digital reach significantly. Digital consumption of local and regional brands increased by 8 per cent, while newer online-only services such as and saw substantial growth.

More worrying for all media organisations is the growing power of social media platforms. More than half of all those surveyed said they use social media as a source of news each week. Facebook is a particularly powerful news source, with 45 per cent using it.

Services such as Facebook are increasingly developing ways to make news content native on their platform, encouraging users to stay on the social- media platform and not click through to the website of the news producer. But with few users aware of news brands on social media, there are questions for publishers about the return on investment when placing news content off-platform. Only 33 per cent of Irish users accessing news via social media noticed the brand that supplied the content – one of the lowest percentages in Europe.

Further pressure on the currently prevalent digital business model of free content financially supported by advertising comes from the rise of ad blockers. Ireland has the fifth highest level of ad blocker use among online news consumers, and the highest in the English-speaking news market, reflecting the fact that the level of advertising on Irish news sites is seen as intrusive by 54 per cent of users. “Irish news consumers have high usage of digital news but are largely unwilling to pay for it and actively avoid the adverts that often subsidise it, which creates a challenging environment for generating revenue from digital news,” the report observes.

Metered subscription

The share of Irish people who pay for digital news rose slightly to 9 per cent, possibly due to the introduction of a metered subscription service last year by The Irish Times. Those who pay for news are high news users across a range multiple brands, both free and paid-for. Of those who pay for news, 46 per cent use The Irish Times online, 45 per cent use and 51 per cent use RTÉ.ie.

The annual report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford is the largest ongoing study of news consumption trends in the world. It covers 26 countries and surveys 50,000 people. The Irish report is sponsored by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and compiled by the Institute for Future Media and Journalism at DCU.