The number of people accessing news in print has halved since 2016, with 80% of Australians saying they have not read a newspaper or news magazine in the past week.
Despite a surge in the consumption of news during the Covid crisis of 2020, the number of Australians paying for news has not increased and the interest in news overall has declined: only 52% of people say they are interested.
In the early months of the pandemic, 70% of Australians accessed news more than once a day but that has now dropped to 51%, which is 4% lower than pre-Covid levels.
The dramatic slide in the consumption of traditional media including print, TV and radio, is documented in the seventh edition of the Digital News Report: Australia produced by the News and Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra.
The data is from an online survey of more than 2000 adult Australians and is reflective of the population that has access to the internet.
Only 4% of people said they primarily got their news from print publications. The number of people reading their local or regional paper has declined in five years from 19% to 11%.
While television, radio and print audiences shrink, online and social media audiences continue to grow, with a quarter of Australians now primarily getting news from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
This figure is up by 5% from 2019. Perhaps surprisingly, older people are taking up social media as a source of news at a rapid rate, with the number of people over 75 using social media for news more than tripling since 2019 (from 3% to 10%).
The loss of print newspapers is not just economic but has had an impact on social cohesion, with print readers more likely to say they feel attached to their local community (73%) than those who rely on other news media.
“Overall, those who mainly use traditional news sources tend to feel more attached to their communities than those who consume news via online or social media sources,” the report’s lead author, Prof Sora Park, said.
Despite a surge in consumption of news during the Covid crisis of 2020, the number of Australians paying for news has not increased and the interest in news overall has declined. The Covid crisis had a detrimental effect on the news media, with hundreds of newspapers closing or moving to digital-only and hundreds of journalists losing their jobs.
While publishers hope audiences will move from paying for newspapers to paying for online news, the research shows that only 13% of Australians are paying for online news, which is below the global average of 17%.
In bad news for commercial publishers, the vast majority of those who are currently not paying (83%) say it is unlikely that they will pay in the future.
The number of news consumers paying for online news increased by 4 percentage points from 2016 to 2021. The figure was 14% in 2020.
As well as a jump in the amount of news people consumed during Covid, trust in the media grew globally, and in Australia, during the pandemic, reflecting the public’s thirst for information in a crisis and the news media’s reporting of official health briefings.
“However, the peak in trust associated with news reporting about Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic has not been transferred to news in general”, Park said.
In Australia, trust in news has risen (+5) to 43%, close to the global average (44%) but is lower than the peak of levels of trust (53%) during the pandemic.
Trust in public broadcasting remains high, as the ABC’s own research on public trust consistently shows.
The ABC remains the most trusted (70%) with SBS close behind on 69% and the Daily Telegraph continues to be the least trusted news brand among the 15 titles.
The Australian Financial Review, included for the first time in this survey, is the most trusted national newspaper, ahead of The Australian.
This report is part of a long-term international survey coordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.