Over 35% Indians don’t trust the news they get from english media
Misinformation, growing lack of trust in news sources, and the power of dominating tech giants remain a big concern to journalism.
Internet penetration in India has been massive. With more news organisations investing in their digital platforms, how does this change the way Indians look at journalism?
The Reuters Institute for study in Journalism released the India Digital News report on 28 March 2019. They surveyed 1013 individuals who reflected the English-speaking population in India that has access to the internet. Although the study does not represent the wider population of Indian digital media users, the results are surprising.
Which is their go-to device?
The report showed that India embraced a mobile-first platform. Indians procure news more from their smartphones than they do from other devices. 68 percent of those surveyed said that their method of procuring news on the digital platform is from their smartphone. Unlike most countries, the imbalance in acquiring news from smartphones versus tablets and personal computers is large.
What is their mode of discovery?
Direct discovery of news—via a news organisation’s news application or website—is far less than other forms of discovery. This is distributed across search, social media platforms, and email and subscription services, making side-door access to news account for 81 percent. Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram have dominated this category.
“We found that despite high usage of social media, users are concerned to express their political views online,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Reuters Institute Director. Since 2012, at least 17 people have been arrested for posting their views that were considered offensive or threatening to a politician.
The study shows that messaging applications where users can directly access a link have been incredibly powerful in gaining their attention. “On the contrary, organisations spend thousands on designing the homepage, but most people that come to the website have direct access to an article link,” said Krishna Prasad, member of the Press Council of India.
Who reads news online?
Offline news sources such as radio, print, or television have not vanished. But these sources are not popular among the youth. 56 percent of users, who are at most 35 years, said that social media is their main source of news.
Online news engagement is primarily driven by sharing. Over 50 percent share the news they read and 33 percent comment on the post. Over 60 percent of the users said that a powerful headline or thumbnail catches their attention. 56 percent also rely on the source who shared the news with them.
What source do they trust?
Legacy brands such as NDTV and The Times of India are more popular among the respondents than any other brands. Additionally, BBC News, Hindustan Times, and The Hindu are among the top ten news websites by reach.
The Times of India, DD News, Hindustan Times, NDTV, and India Today are the top five news brands that respondents trust.
Some felt that mainstream media did not best represent their views. As a result, they are drawn to partisan and alternative news websites.
Only 39 percent of respondents said that they trusted the news they use most of the times. The difference between ‘trust news I use’ and ‘trust news overall’—36 percent—is a mere three percent.
In other countries, trust in the news they accessed through distribution is significantly lower than trust in overall news. How do they deal with disinformation? Only 57 percent said that they are concerned over what is real and fake on the internet.
“A bigger question that arises here is, do people go to social media with the intent of getting news?” asked C. P. Chandrasekhar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Levels of concern over disinformation are high in India. 51 percent expressed concern over hyper-partisan content, 50 percent over false news and 51 percent in poor journalism. Over two-thirds felt that the publishers, platforms, and governments should tackle misinformation.
Where does journalism stand?
“In the U.K., technology giants can be held accountable for any posts that are misleading. They are not differentiated from a publisher. This holds them accountable.” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. He added, “But given the range of languages present in India, will such a model sustain in India?”
Digital platforms are unable to sustain themselves. Their revenue models are highly controlled by advertisers. Referring to sustainable practices in journalism, N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Media Group said,"Resorting to self-advocacy is something businesses will have to look into."
When asked if they would donate to an outlet they used, 10 percent of the respondents strongly agreed. Only 40 percent said that they would pay for online news in the future.