A World Without News? 

 

Luciana Gurgel | MediaTalks by J&Cia, London

 

One of the questions asked by journalists and researchers in the beginning of the pandemic was whether the gain in trust by quality journalism shown by several studies at that time was here to stay. The answer begins to emerge. And, at least in the UK, it’s a good one. 

A new study launched by Newsworks –  ‘World Without News’ –  to explore the role of news brands in a contemporary landscape has revealed how the nation’s appreciation and value of journalism has increased significantly since the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic:

“Against a backdrop of fake news, disinformation and attacks on free speech, 66% of news consumers said they “appreciate and value journalism more since the global coronavirus pandemic began”.

“Encouragingly, the increase is most stark in the under 35-year-olds, with 77% valuing the work of journalists more now in providing reliable information and news.

According to Newsworks, “younger people are increasingly using trusted news brands to check what they see on social media. Although 42% of under 35-year-olds said they used social media more throughout the height of the pandemic, seven in ten of those said they felt less anxious about a story they had seen on social media once they had then checked it out via a news brand.”. 

And 70% of all respondents agreed that a “world without journalism would harm democratic society” – nearly all those cited the work journalists do in “covering important topics and issues that might otherwise be overlooked” and are “important to society”.

A different approach 

The questions to be asked by the study where: What is news? Why do we consume it?  What is the role of news brands versus other news sources? What are the implications for brands? What is the impact of COVID-19?

Spanning a total of nine months, across two periods – pre and post lockdown – the research began with semiotics analysis that decoded the different techniques 15 different news outlets used to cover five key news stories.

Following this it conducted out a unique behavioural experiment that deprived regular readers from consuming news brands. Conversely, a group of non-news readers were asked to read a news brand every single day for the same four-day period. Finally, it looked to substantiate our findings via a 24-hour news diary amongst 1135 news consumers and nationally representative surveys in both February and August 2020.

The in-depth research identified six goals that consuming news helps individuals to achieve including: connecting with others; calibrating the world around us; and, helping us, as individuals, to thrive.

 

According to the report, the findings from the 24-hour diary amongst news consumers allowed to determine the main reason for consuming news on each occasion, either via reading, watching or listening.

“We were able to capture this in a natural environment when people were consuming news in their usual way. This meant that we could determine from their responses which news sources were most important for meeting the needs of the different goals.

The goal of Orientate was the simplest to meet. TV news is often used to meet this goal, most likely because it requires less effort to process. However, news brands also play an important role in meeting this goal, to a greater degree than radio and social media, says Newsworks.

News brands are seen to be across all major new stories as well as breaking news and are therefore very well placed to help people achieve this goal – 70% of news consumers agree: “you can trust newspapers to be on top of all the news stories at the time”.

Orientate tends to be a morning goal with the same being true for Survive. Similarly for Survive, more passive news sources such as TV and radio are used to keep a ‘watching brief’ on the latest news.

However, as is the case with Orientate, news brands also play a significant role in helping to meet Survive goals – perhaps now more than ever, says the study. The completeness of news brands mean they’re also widely used to meet Escape goals.

The vast majority of news consumers (82%) agree: “newspapers bring you a variety of news, even stories that you hadn’t previously heard of”. And 72% agree that “a world without newspapers would be grey and boring”.

Not surprisingly news content on TV and social media are also used to achieve Escape goals. The first three goals of Orientate, Survive and Escape show the importance of having a myriad of news sources to meet these needs.

The study says that in isolation, news brands are not the only way of meeting these goals for people on a daily basis. They do, however, significantly contribute to meeting them in combination with other news sources. And the next three goals of Calibrate, Connect and Thrive see news brands undoubtedly stand apart from other news sources.

Calibrate is a really important goal for people – 82% of news consumers agree: “the news helps me to make sense of complex issues”, whilst eight in 10 agree that “the news is a good way of knowing what other people think”. The findings from our diary data show that news brands are undeniably the most important news source to help people achieve this goal. 

 

Social media is viewed as being based on too much opinion – 53% interviewed agree they: “feel anxious when they read news stories on social media”. This compares to 63% agreeing: “I feel less anxious when I read a newspaper compared to checking stories on social media”. It’s also viewed as having less structure – 76% agree that “newspapers present the news in a structured way, they don’t just chuck random stories at you”. 

Commenting on the launch of ‘World Without News’, Jo Allan, managing director at Newsworks, said:

“This research clearly shows the importance of trusted news and information. Journalism matters to increasingly large numbers of people who are relying on news brands more than ever, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is our biggest study to date and what has emerged is the essential and growing role news plays in bringing us together, providing us with different perspectives and helping us to understand what is happening in the world around us.”

 

Further highlights and insights from the research:

  • 70% agree you can trust newspapers to be on top of all the news stories at the time
  • 82% agree that newspapers bring you a variety of news, even stories you hadn’t previously heard of 
  • 83% agree that newspapers cover all aspects of the news, not just one particular type of news 
  • 80% agree newspapers are great at laying out everything to help you make sense of a story, issue or event 
  • Under 35-year-olds are more likely to change their opinion or behaviour after reading a news story

 

The study is here. 

 

 

Luciana Gurgel is a Brazilian journalist based in London. She begun her editorial career at O Globo, one of the leading Brazilian media organisations. Later she founded (along with Aldo de Luca) Publicom, a successful corporate communications agency, acquired in 2016 by Weber Shandwick (IPG Group). In London, she has been working as news correspondent for Brazilian media – MyNews Channel, J&Cia – to which she writes a weekly column on trends and issue related to the news industry. The column originated  a separate platform, MediaTalks, headed by Luciana from London as Editor-in-Chief, in association with Jornalistas Editora.

  

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