Online news ‘takes off in US and UK while most Germans prefer a newspaper’

9 July 2012

The University of Oxford has launched a major study to examine how the digital revolution is changing the way we access news. Among the first findings published today, it shows that of those surveyed, most Germans still prefer a newspaper. Meanwhile, online news has overtaken print and TV news as the most frequently used medium in the UK and US for those using computers, mobile phones and tablets for news. One in five people in the UK now shares news stories every week through social networks or e-mail. However, the report also suggests out of the five countries studied, consumers in the UK were the most resistant to the idea of paying for online news.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report, published by the University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, is based on the findings of YouGov surveys in UK, US, France, Germany and Denmark. The report finds that more than a quarter (28%) of those surveyed in the US and UK access news via their mobile each week. Six out of ten tablet owners in the UK said they regularly accessed online news.

In the UK, mobile phone users are more concerned about the cost of accessing news (32%) than those who accessed news on a computer. Of tablet users (generally from a higher-income bracket), 58% use the device to access news every week and are more likely to pay for news content. Some newspaper brands with paid apps did significantly better on a tablet than on the open internet. Four out of ten tablet users say accessing news on the device is a better experience than on a personal computer. Overall, in the UK only four per cent of those surveyed said they had paid for online news, while Denmark had the highest percentage (12%) of consumers, of the countries studied, who have paid for online news.

Report author Nic Newman, a Research Associate at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said: ‘For many people digital news is now the first place to go for the latest news, rivalling television as the most frequently accessed type of news in the UK and the US. Of those surveyed, nearly eight out of ten people  accessed online news every week, but the transition from print to digital is much slower in other European countries. The report suggests that the Germans were the least likely to access news online of the five countries studied with almost seven out of ten, of those surveyed, saying they still read a newspaper.’

The report also shows that in the UK, celebrity news is perceived to be more important – and news about politics less important – compared to the other countries surveyed. There is more interest in business and economic news in the UK and the US than in the European countries surveyed.

The young also watch fewer traditional television news bulletins than older people. The young listen to far less news on radio, but spend far more time accessing news on their mobiles than older people.  They are also more likely to use social media rather than search for news, whereas for older groups it is the other way round. In general, Europe lags behind the US in both the sharing of news and other forms of digital participation. In the UK, Facebook is the most important network for news, accounting for over half (55%) of all news sharing, followed by email (33%) and Twitter (23%).

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report is the first in a series of reports that the RISJ hopes to publish over the coming years, tracking the changes in the public’s use of digital and traditional media to access news. The online surveys were conducted for Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism by YouGov in April 2012. The report reflects only the views of online users and excludes respondents who expressed no interest in accessing news at all.

For the full report or interviews, please contact the University of Oxford Press Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email press.office@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes for Editors:

  • The full report will be available on the RISJ website at  on 9 July 2012. The media can have an advance copy of the executive summary or the full report (60-plus pages) on request. It contains graphics and diagrams to illustrate the findings.
  • YouGov conducted online surveys with representative samples from five countries: In UK, a total of 2,487 people (including 314 tablet owners); in US, a total of 814; in France, a total of 1,011; in Germany, a total of 970; and in Denmark, a total of 1,002. All the surveys were conducted in April 2012.
  • The research for the Reuters Institute Digital News Report was supported by YouGov, Ofcom, BBC and the City University, London.
  • The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) is University of Oxford’s centre for research into news media. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the core funder of the RISJ, based in the Department of Politics and International Relations. The Institute was launched in November 2006 and developed from the Reuters Fellowship Programme, established at Oxford 29 years ago. The Institute, an international research centre in the comparative study of journalism, aims to be global in its perspective and provides a leading forum for scholars from a wide range of disciplines to engage with journalists from around the world http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/.

    Nic Newman is a journalist and digital strategist who played a key role in shaping the BBC’s internet services over more than a decade. He was a founding member of the BBC News website, leading international coverage as World Editor (1997–2001). As head of product development he led digital teams, developing websites, mobile, and interactive TV applications for all BBC Journalism sites. Nic is currently a Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and a consultant on digital media.