UC study finds local news is king

Charlotte 12 July 2016
Man using mobile while walking

Australian consumers are more interested in news about their region than sport, entertainment or celebrity information, and are primarily accessing news via screens, a University of Canberra survey on media use has found.

The University of Canberra News and Media Research Centre’s Digital News Report: Australia 2016 study found that most Australians are accessing news via television, online media or social media, and their preference is for local news stories over world or sports coverage.

The report is part of an international survey on news consumption led by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

It found that the most popular source of news in the week prior to the survey was split evenly between terrestrial TV (53.9 per cent) and social media (52.2 per cent). But when asked to name their main source of news, 37.6 per cent of respondents replied TV (including terrestrial and 24-hour news); 27.4 per cent replied online news; and 18.5 per cent replied social network services/blogs.

Director of N&MRC and the report’s lead author Jerry Watkins said that, as expected, the use of online news sources was highest among young people.

“Almost 65 per cent of people aged 18-24 are going online to websites, social media and blogs as their news’ sources,” Dr Watkins said.

“Comparatively, those aged 55 years and older were far more likely (72.4 per cent) to be relying on the traditional print, radio or TV sources.”

The report also revealed that Australians remain interested in local news.

“Respondents rated news about their region, city or town as the most important, followed by international news, crime, justice and security,” Dr Watkins said.

“Surprisingly though, what’s regarded as popular news, for example, sport, arts, entertainment and celebrity information were often ranked at the bottom of people’s scale.”

The research also shows that people are still paying for newspapers, but are far less likely to pay to access news online. While 38 per cent had bought a paper in the week prior to the survey, only 10 per cent had paid to access online news in the previous 12 months.

“Our survey shows that almost two thirds (66 per cent) of people are firmly set against paying for online news at all, while of the remainder a little more than half would commit to on-going payments for news,” Dr Watkins said.

This year’s Australian report examines closely the issue of trust in the news media. In Australia more than one in four of survey respondents do not trust news and about 31 per cent neither trust nor distrust news most of the time.

“Breaking down the trust issue, our survey shows that many Australians do not trust news organisations (27.5 per cent) and even more do not trust journalists (29.8 per cent),” Dr Watkins said.

“The survey shows that the 18-24 year old group has less trust in news organisations than older people and those with a postgraduate education are less likely to trust journalists.”

More than 2,000 people were surveyed for the report, which has been published online at the N&MRC’s Australian Policy Online website.

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