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ReutersInstitute Main Online Gateway to News Jul2020Some 28% of online news consumers globally start their news journeys via a website or app, with a further 26% primarily coming across news via social media, per the latest Digital News Report [pdf] by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Online news habits explored in the report – based on a survey of more than 80,000 people across 40 different markets – indicate a trend towards news access via social media, as well as a slight decline in news found by going direct to a publication’s properties.

In general, the use of non-direct digital channels to access news has been associated with younger groups, but the Reuters Institute’s survey highlights such habits becoming more widely adopted among all ages. Granted, it is notably more common for Gen Z respondents to cite social media as the main way they access news (38%), and their ‘side-door access’ to news – i.e any access method other than direct – is also high (84%). The report notes that publishers may need to focus more on building audiences through social media in order to attract youth – although given that algorithm changes have previously dented social traffic to news sites, publishers may be reluctant to bet on such an approach.

That being said, it’s not only Gen Z audiences that are getting more of their news from social. Compared to 2019, the percentage of respondents of all ages mainly accessing news via social media has risen by 2 percentage points from 24% to 26%. And, the share that mainly access news directly (28%) is down very slightly (-1% point). In other words, across all age groups it’s almost as common for audiences to come across online news through social media than to visit a publication’s property directly.

Meanwhile, among Gen Z, the share accessing news mainly via mobile alerts has climbed 2% points y-o-y to 9%. Indeed, when asked to share any of the ways that they came across news, the percentage of overall US respondents citing mobile notifications is at an all-time high (22%). What’s more, these figures might not communicate the real frequency of this access method – the report offers a reminder that referrals from mobile apps can be hard to measure, with respondents often failing to recall using such services, particularly if referred via a notification.

Nonetheless, accessing news via mobile app is increasingly popular – the proportion of US iPhone users using Apple News has more than doubled from 14% in 2016 to 29% this year. When all devices are considered, Google News is the most commonly used mobile news aggregator both overall (23%) and in the US (17%).

Finally, it’s important to note that as the survey was conducted in January and February 2020, the picture is likely to have changed. Several studies featured on the MarketingCharts Coronavirus Data Hub show that news consumption patterns have shifted markedly since the pandemic was declared.

The full report can be accessed here.

About the Data: Figures are based on a survey of more than 80,000 people across 40 markets.

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