Report: Print Readership In Australia Has Halved Since 2016

Pile of printed newspapers on blue background

New data has revealed the number of people reading news in print has halved over the past five years.

The University of Canberra released the latest Digital News Report: Australia this week, which suggests an overall loss of interest in news media amongst Australians.

While the pandemic last year brought with it a resurgence in news consumption, it has since fallen, according to the report.

Heavy news use has dropped from 69 per cent in April 2020 to 51 per cent in 2021. Additionally, the percentage of people expressing a ‘high interest’ in news has fallen from 64 per cent in 2016 to 52 per cent in 2021.

“This year’s report reveals that news organisations have not been able to sustain the highs of consumption, interest, and trust experienced during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,” the report says.

Underlining the move away from news media has been the continued decline in print. Print readership has halved since 2016, with 80 per cent of Aussies revealing they had not read a newspaper or magazine in the past week, and just four per cent suggesting they use newspapers as their primary source of news.

And while overall consumption of news across the spectrum has declined, interestingly, the trust in news media has seen an uptick.

Although trust in news peaked at 53 per cent in April 2020, it has now steadied at 43 per cent, marking a five per cent increase in the past 12 months.

“The improvement in trust likely reflects the public’s greater reliance on news in a crisis, and the active dissemination of official health advice by news outlets during the pandemic. In contrast, trust in news found on social media or search engines did not increase,” the report says.

Who’s paying for news?

With so much free (albeit ad-supported) news media available, it is perhaps unsurprising to see that just 13 per cent of Australians are currently paying for news. Additionally, 83 per cent said they would not be paying for news in the future.

However, the report suggests that this is related to a general lack of knowledge around the financial state of the media in Australia.

Two-thirds of Australians are unaware that commercial news organisations are less profitable than they were 10 years ago.

“The lack of awareness about the financial difficulty facing the news media is just one of several findings in this report highlighting low levels of media literacy and engagement, particularly among people from low socio- economic backgrounds,” the study says.

“Recent research indicates that those with higher media literacy are more likely to be active citizens in a democratic society.”

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