As we enter 2024, we decided to take stock of the state of news and digital media consumption over the last year through three reports that caught our eye. The ground-breaking Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the Media Literacy Report (as part of Public Service Media) by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Eurobarometer that surveyed respondents on media and news. Here are our top findings.

No more doomscrolling

Digital News Report – Reuters Institute for the study of journalism

As a panoramic view of the state of the news media in key countries around the world, one striking insight was the rate of news avoidance. In Europe, Greece and Bulgaria have the highest levels of news avoidance, while Finland and Denmark have the lowest. The authors note that in general “the proportion of news consumers who say they avoid news […] remains close to all-time highs at 36% across all markets”. The researchers divide news avoiders into two groups: those who actively avoid “all sources” of news and those who limit their news consumption to a specific time of day. The big question: why do people avoid the news? While this question may never be entirely settled, most respondents said they were interested in “positive or solutions-oriented journalism”.

Fighting fake news

Media Literacy Report – European Broadcasting Union EBU

At a time of saturation of information, media literacy can help separate fact from fiction, especially in the digital age. The EBU compiled a report from a handful of EEA countries to analyse their levels of media literacy. Shockingly, only 54% of respondents had the required level of digital literacy, and a staggering 74% of Europeans believe that misinformation is a national problem. To curb the latter, the former needs to increase. Given that we’re at the dawn of mass AI, solid digital skills are essential to help audiences separate fact from fiction. There is, however, cause for optimism: respondents emphasised that there is a strong need for initiatives to further explain and combat fake news, especially in the context of AI.

Traditional or social media: that is the question

Media & News Survey 2023 – Eurobarometer

This study combines general audience habits with media coverage of the EU. It’s interesting to note that 68% of respondents said they had recently read something in the media about the EU. In this respect, although the use of social media for news consumption is steadily increasing, 71% of Europeans prefer TV as their most used platform to access news. On the other hand, social media shares the podium with radio at 37%. This is quite different from the situation across the pond in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 6 in 10 Americans prefer to use a digital device for news consumption rather than TV or radio. And what about the most trusted platform in the EU? Traditional platforms aren’t dead yet, as they top the charts: public television and radio are the most preferred, followed by the written press.

The common denominator among these and other stories, is the clash between the old and the new. And while misinformation can spread like wildfire on digital platforms, the more the public is properly informed, the better it will be able to fight misinformation. This is reminiscent of a quote by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, in his book ‘Breaking news the remaking of journalism and why it matters now’: “These two worlds – old and new – continue to collide in a fog of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding. The combination of the best of these worlds could yet be formidable [PG 378].” And indeed, the combination of the old and the new can potentially be news’ best friend, especially in the face of mistrust and media scepticism.

Josef Cutajar, Communications Consultant