Distrust and negativity turning off Australian news audiences

Australians have been identified as the lightest news consumers out of 38 countries surveyed as part of the annual Digital News Report.

What’s more, trust in Australian news media is shrinking at the same time as news avoidance is growing.

The annual report, co-ordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism based at Oxford University, found Australia had the smallest proportion of people who accessed news more than once a day, at 52 per cent. While this had increased since 2016, it was still considerably below the global average of 66 per cent, whereas in Sweden 85 per cent consumed news more than once a day.

Frequency of news consumption globally

“On the negative side, the number of Australians with high interest in news has fallen, news avoidance has risen, and many Australians think the news is often too negative and not that relevant to their lives,” the Australian version of the report said.

A local weighted survey of 2010 people found the number of Australians who try to avoid the news occasionally, sometimes or often has increased from 57% to 62% since 2017.

Women (67%) were more likely to avoid news than men (58%), and younger generations were more likely to avoid news than older generations.

While this sounds like bad news for publishers it may equally reflect a growing trend to attempt to use technology more mindfully in an age where the latest news is always at your fingertips.

Trust in news fell globally, and faster in Australia, although overall we still fared slightly better than average. In Australia it fell six per cent from 50% to 44%, whereas globally it went from 44% to 42%.

ABC was found to be Australians’ most trusted news brand, while print and television were the most trusted mediums.

Most trusted Australian news brands

Those who distrust news were likely to access it less frequently, be aged 18-37 years and rely on social media as their main source of news.

Looking at five areas of performance, Aussie media were rated above the global average for keeping people up to date, helping them understand what is happening and holding the powerful to account. However, respondents were also more likely to say Australian news was too negative and irrelevant to them.

Media performance vs 38 countries

“More than half (53%) of right-wing orientated news consumers perceive the news to be too negative compared to 41% of left-wing consumers,” the report said.

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