Consumers in Ireland and worldwide have limited understanding of how news appears in their social media feeds, the Reuters Institute Digital News Report has revealed.
In Ireland only 28% of those surveyed said they understood the role of algorithms, which is in line with international observations at 27%. In addition 73% either did not know the answer or assumed that social media companies employ journalists.
The main findings of the Irish report, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and conducted by the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University were:
- Interest in News: high in all demographics with little change in overall news consumption patterns.
- News Sources: television brands still dominate. TheJournal.ie and RTÉ News Online dominate online. A slight decline in the use of social media for news.
- Trust in News: Irish consumers are more trusting of “most news” than the EU average.
- Paying for News: a slight, but steady increase in consumer payment for news.
- Radio and Podcasts: Irish consumers are very engaged with radio and podcasts.
- Disinformation: high concern about “fake news” among Irish consumers.
- News Literacy: limited understanding of digital media and news practices.
Instagram as a source of news now stands at 26% having grown from 12% in 2015.
However, there has been a slight overall decline in the use of social media for news. In Ireland, Facebook has fallen from 71% in 2015 to 67% in 2018.
This fall was more pronounced in the US, where use of Facebook for news has fallen by 9% since 2014.
This is attributable to Facebook’s changed algorithms, but also worries among users about privacy, the toxic nature of debates on the platform, and the ability to distinguish between real and ‘fake’ news.
A rise in the usage for news of alternative platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat – particularly with younger groups was also observed. WhatsApp use for news has tripled, on average, in four years to 15%, but tends to be much higher in countries like Malaysia (54%) and Turkey (30%) where it can be dangerous to express political views in more open networks, the report notes. Respondents often talk about finding stories on Facebook (and Twitter) but then posting them to a WhatsApp group for discussion with a smaller, closer set of friends.