This year’s report comes in the midst of a global health pandemic that is unprecedented in modern times and whose economic, political, and social consequences are still unfolding. The seriousness of this crisis has reinforced the need for reliable, accurate journalism that can inform and educate populations, but it has also reminded us how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation. Journalists no longer control access to information, while greater reliance on social media and other platforms give people access to a wider range of sources and ‘alternative facts’, some of which are at odds with official advice, misleading, or simply false.
Much of the data in this publication was collected before the virus hit many of the countries featured in this survey, so to a large extent this represents a snapshot of these historic trends. But to get a sense of what has changed, we repeated key parts of our survey in six countries (UK, USA, Germany, Spain, South Korea, and Argentina) in early April. These responses confirm industry data which show increased consumption of traditional sources of news, especially television, but also some online news sources.
Journalism matters and is in demand again. But one problem for publishers is that this extra interest is producing even less income – as advertisers brace for an inevitable recession and print revenue dips. Against this background it is likely we’ll see a further drive towards digital subscription and other reader payment models which have shown considerable promise in the last few years. This is what makes it so important to understand how various models are progressing in different markets, such as the United States, Norway, and the UK, where we have conducted more in-depth research on pay this year. While the coronavirus crisis is likely to dramatically affect the short-term prospects for many publishers, our findings provide long-term insights into one important part of the future of the business of news. We also ask about the implications for society if more high-quality information disappears behind paywalls, a dilemma that has become more real during this health emergency.
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