Digital subscriptions to the media grow, but confidence in the news falls

A woman browses the digital news on the computer. / MIGUEL ANGEL MOLINA / EFE

A report from the University of Navarra reveals that 63% of those surveyed are interested in local information

AP Madrid

The map of payment for access to digital news in Spain begins to change. Although the percentage of Spaniards who paid for digital information is similar to last year (11.7%), 42% of those who did opt for regular payment or standard subscription, which represents eleven points more than in 2020.

31% chose to jointly subscribe to a print or digital media package, an increase of eight points. This is stated in the report Digital News Report Spain 2022 of the University of Navarra.

Six out of ten respondents (63%) were interested in local or regional news at the beginning of this 2022, above news about coronavirus (47%), international (46%), culture (44%), science and technology (42%), and politics (41%).

In light of the data, for the first time in the nine editions of the survey, those who distrust the news (39%) outnumber those who trust it (32%). In addition, 35% of those surveyed often or sometimes avoid getting information.

The era of free content has been left behind for the main news groups, which since 2019 have opted for the most exclusive and differentiated content to no longer be free. Thus, according to the data declared by the industry itself collected by the authors of this report, the Spanish market has more than 775,000 subscribers, 94% more than a year ago.

These figures contrast with the fact that the majority of citizens continue to offer enormous resistance to paying for printed or digital news: two out of three respondents never pay for information (67%).

The study has been prepared by researchers from the Faculty of Communication of the University of Navarra, based on a survey carried out by YouGov in collaboration with the Reuters Institute of the University of Oxford.

log to read

Registration to access the media is also beginning to wake up in Spain, forcing citizens to offer some of their personal data. 24% of those surveyed declare that they have registered with some news medium in the last year, compared to 70% who have not. This figure is lower than the 28% average declared in the 22 countries where this issue has been analyzed.

Traditional brands, especially newspapers and television channels, continue to be the most consulted on the internet, and enjoy a greater frequency of consumption than native digital media. Three of the latter are again among the ten most consulted weekly in Spain, although they have room for improvement in terms of loyalty (recurrence of use of three or more days a week).

In contrast to this consumer who is loyal to their traditional brands, who accesses news through their applications or direct accesses (50%), there is a greater and growing proportion of users who access information indirectly through the algorithms of platforms and social networks (62%), for whom the weight of the brand is diluted.

Not everything is good news for communication companies. Among the most worrying data, the report shows that the interest and confidence of the Spanish population in the news are the lowest in recent years. For the first time in nine editions, the percentage of people who do not trust the news in general (39%) exceeds that of those who do (32%).

Increases the proportion of users who access information through platform algorithms

The loss of trust has been continuous since 2017, the year in which more than half of those surveyed declared that they trust the media (51%) and only 24% were skeptical. Furthermore, for the first time, none of the thirteen leading information brands analyzed achieve the trust of the majority of those who know them.

political groups

One of the reasons that may explain the loss of confidence in the news is the generalized perception among those surveyed that the Spanish media are not independent from political or business groups.

Only 13% of Spanish users trust the independence of the media from politicians, and 15% from commercial influences, five points less than in 2017. Spain is the second European country with the worst public perception of the independence of its news companies in the face of political pressure (only behind Greece and sharing a place with Italy) and in the face of business pressure.

As far as interest is concerned, the percentage of Spaniards very interested in information has fallen from 85% in 2015 to 55% today. Likewise, the percentage of those uninterested in the news has multiplied by ten over these eight years: from 1% to 11%.

Thus, the percentage of Spaniards who actively avoid being informed has increased: one in three (35%) often or sometimes avoid being informed, and 10% do so frequently. The three main reasons for doing so are fed up with excessive coverage of topics such as politics or covid-19 (44%), the negative influence that the news has on their mood (30%) and mistrust of information (28%).

In addition, 75% regularly use the mobile phone to consume news, more than twice as much as the computer (36%). 54% of those surveyed use a smart TV device, and one in four adults (25%) use it to get information through the internet and applications on this big connected screen.

The Spanish digital news audience is, for yet another year, one of the most participatory (69%) of the 46 markets in which the survey is conducted. Specifically, half do so regularly (ten points more than the international average), especially through instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Telegram (35%).

Only 11% declare that they do not pay attention to any information source on climate change: they prefer to follow scientists, experts and academics (46%), followed by the media (37%). In addition, almost half of the respondents (49%) believe that news coverage should be clearly positioned in favor of taking action to combat climate change.

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