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article imageChanging role of news in the digital age

By Tim Sandle     May 13, 2018 in Business
A new survey from the European Union provides an insight into the key trends surrounding the digital transformation of news markets.
The survey has been undertaken by the European Commission Joint Research Centre. The results reveal that over two-thirds of online news consumers prefer to access news and related content through algorithm-driven platforms. This means search engines and news aggregators, something like Google News. A secondary source of news for those living in the European Union is via social media websites, of which Facebook is a prime example.
Search engine or news site?
The balance between search engine based news and social media led news is different to other territories, like the U.S. where the majority now receive news content via Facebook. One report reveals that 78 percent of the U.S. population aged under 50 said they consume news on social media platforms.
For those in Europe, this means that fewer people are going directly to media companies for news content. In other words, fewer visits to the BBC or The Guardian, and more clicks to Google’s news content.
The survey also shows that both market power and market reach (not to mention revenue streams) have shifted away from news publishers and to platform operators. The platform operators make use of data to match readers to articles and, important for revenue, matching readers to targeted adverts.
Changing consumer patterns for news
To assess changing consumer patterns to news, data was drawn from the European Media Monitor which processes some 300,000 articles per day from traditional news sites, as well as news drawn from social media outlets.
This analysis showed that real news consumption, from online sites, continues to dwarf fake news consumption. However, fake news tends to travel faster and further across social media sites. However, in terms of how things play out in the future may alter since the data differs considerably by age, education and country.
Towards algorithm-driven distribution of news?
The full report also raises quality concerns. The report makes it clear that this is not a concern with a switch from paper media (newspapers and traditional magazines) to digital formats, but more to the shift towards indirect algorithm-driven distribution of news. This is because ‘news’ generated by an algorithm and fed into a user’s stream tends to contain a jumble of genuine news articles written by professional journalists, user generated content, of variable standards, and deliberately produced disinformation (‘fake news’).
The European Commission, based on the survey, has decided to take action on disinformation spread as digital news. The measures are outlined in the Digital Journal article “New approach for tackling fake news and online disinformation.”
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