Australians rate international news more highly than Americans and Europeans but are not so keen on political news, according to a global survey of media consumption.
Among 12 countries surveyed, Australians were the top of the pile for the consumption of international news and also for accessing news on a smartphone.
But political news was ranked lower in importance in Australia than any other country surveyed – below national news, sport, economic news and local news.
The Digital News Report: Australia 2015 by the News & Media Research Centre at University of Canberra examined how digital news is consumed in comparison with print and broadcast news.
An Australian first, the study was undertaken in collaboration with the Reuters institute for the study of journalism at the University of Oxford which has been doing the same survey in 11 other countries for four years, adding Australia in 2015.
“A strong interest in international news is understandable given many Australians’ historic and family ties with many other parts of the world,” research associate Nic Newman of the Reuters institute said in the report.
“As befits those living in one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, Australians are also amongst the best connected – along with Denmark – as heavy users of smartphone and tablets for news.”
Broadcast television remains the main source of news for most Australians, and this includes both traditional news bulletins and 24-hour news channels such as Sky News and ABC News 24, The second most popular source of news is online news websites.
Print newspapers were the preferred main source of news amongst only 7% of respondents.
However, Australians don’t necessarily have a high opinion of news quality. The report found a “significant lack of trust in most news” with 30.7% of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that they trusted “most news”.
Respondents trusted their own preferred news sources more: 52.5% agreed or strongly agreed that they can trust the news that they chose to consume regularly.
Despite the proliferation of news apps put out by media organisations, only one in seven respondents who accessed news online in the past week used news apps on their smartphones – and fewer than one in 10 did so on tablets.
Of those who used news apps ABC, Yahoo7, ninemsn, Google News and Sydney Morning Herald apps were the most popular among smartphone and tablet users.
In more bad news for traditional media, Australians are very reluctant to pay for online news, with only 11% making a payment for digital news in the past week, and of those who did pay half forked out less than $10 a month.
Most of the news people consumed in the preceding week was not paid for – except for newspapers and pay TV – and 83% of those who had not paid for digital news said they were were “unlikely” to pay for news in the future and 60% were “very unlikely”.
Newman says in the report that free online news sources like Yahoo7 and ninemsn had already made it difficult for traditional newspapers to charge for content online.
“But now we see the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed appealing to the young, while UK brands such as the Guardian, the Mail and the BBC look to pick off mainstream audiences and a growing share of the advertising market.”
The most popular social network for finding, reading, watching, sharing, or discussing news is overwhelmingly Facebook with 48.1% using it every week compared with YouTube at 15.4%, Twitter at 7.5% and Google at 6.8%.
Australians are active participants in news sharing, reporting they like to talk face-to-face and to share news through Facebook and email with their friends.
We are also more devoted to Apple devices than any country apart from Denmark.
Another one the report’s commentators, Robert G Picard of the Reuters institute, said the report showed that while TV news and newspapers remain the main sources of news both offline and online, about a third of digital users get news from digital sources not linked to traditional media.
“Digital news consumption in Australia is widening the sources that audiences turn to for news,” Picard said.
“Whilst relying on major broadcasters and newspapers offline and online, audiences are increasingly turning to hybrid sources such as ninemsn, Yahoo7, and new sources such as Guardian Australia, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post in their digital use, becoming a world leader in accessing news from these sources. When age is considered, younger people are more likely to use digital native sources than traditional sources to obtain news.”
The 11 other countries which took part in the 2015 Digital News Report were Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK, USA and urban Brazil.