The media has a big problem, Reuters Institute says: Who will pay for the news?

FILE PHOTO: Front pages of newspapers and magazines are displayed on an iPhone during the grand opening and media preview of the new Apple Carnegie Library store in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – News organizations are being challenged by technology giants and unsettled by a broader lack of trust but they have a much deeper problem: most people don’t want to pay for online news, the Reuters Institute found.

Swiftly accelerating mobile internet and smartphones have revolutionized the delivery of news and destroyed the business models of many news organizations over the past 20 years, leading to falling revenues, layoffs and takeovers.

The mass migration of advertising to U.S. technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon has hammered revenues while more than half the world’s population now has access to news via an internet connection.

But will people actually pay for news?

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said in its annual Digital News Report that most people would not pay for online news and that there had been only a small increase in the proportion of people willing to do so in the last six years.

Even among those who do pay, there is “subscription fatigue” – many are tired of being asked to pay for so many different subscriptions. Many will opt for films or music rather than pay for news. So some media companies will fail.

“Much of the population is perfectly happy with the news that they can access for free and even amongst those who are willing to pay, the majority are only willing to sign up for one subscription,” Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute, said by telephone.

“A lot of the public is really alienated from a lot of the journalism that they see – they don’t find it particularly trustworthy, they don’t find it particularly relevant and they don’t find it leaves them in a better place.”

While many news organizations add paywalls and some see increases in digital subscriptions, there has been little change in the proportion of people paying for online news, apart from the “Trump bump” rise in the United States in 2016/2017.

In the United States, those paying for news online were likely to have a university degree and be wealthy: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post did well on digital.

Still, almost 40 percent of new digital subscriptions at the New York Times are for crosswords and cooking, the Reuters Institute said, citing an article by Vox.

In Britain, around a third of those surveyed said they avoided the news due to Brexit. Leave voters said they avoided the news as it made them sad and said they could not rely on the news being true. There has been no Brexit bounce.

“If news organizations want to cut through with a direct route to users in an environment dominated by platforms, if they want to convince people to pay for their journalism then they must convince people that the journalism they publish has value for them, for the public,” Nielsen said.


As they fight for revenue, news organizations are facing a growing threat from entertainment providers such as Netflix , Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Prime.

“In some countries, subscription fatigue may also be setting in, with the majority preferring to spend their limited budget on entertainment (Netflix/Spotify) rather than news,” said Nic Newman, a senior research associate at the Reuters Institute.

“Not surprisingly, news comes low down the list when compared with other services such as Netflix and Spotify – especially for the younger half of the population,” he said.

When asked what media subscription they would pick if they had only one for the next year, just 7% of under 45-year-olds picked news. The report showed 37% would opt for online video and 15% for online music.

Aggregators are also waiting in the wings: Apple News+ offers a single priced subscription for some access to premium titles including TIME, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

That could deny publishers a direct link with consumers, limiting the information they have to make targeted advertising more effective, and valuable.

“Despite the greater opportunities for paid content, it is likely that most commercial news provision will remain free at the point of use, dependent on low-margin advertising, a market where big tech platforms hold most of the cards,” Newman said.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is a research center at the University of Oxford that tracks media trends. Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, funds the Reuters Institute.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

Israelis Using Smartphone To Track Rocket Attacks

Under attack from Hamas rockets?  There’s an app for that.

A new app has been made available for smartphones that allow Israelis to track the incoming rockets from Hamas and give themselves time to get to shelter.  Half a million people have already downloaded the app in just three days.

Many Israelis are seeing the app as vital because the traditional ways to inform citizens about incoming rockets was radio stations and television interrupting programming.  However, with the increased use of satellite radio, iPod and other electronic devices, many Israelis do not have a television or radio on 24 hours a day.

“It gives us a sense of control in a situation where there is no control,” writer and journalist Debra Kamim, who lives in Tel Aviv, told the Washington Post. “It’s especially useful at night because people are worried they won’t hear the sirens while they sleep, and this way they can have the phone next to their beds.”

The app includes a social element where users can post comments about attacks in their area, damage from any rockets that land and requests for help if necessary.

The app is available in English for users in the West to keep track of the rockets if they wish to pray for Israelis when a rocket is approaching them.  The app is available for iPhones, iPad and Android.

NSA Secretly Collects Data Using Angry Birds

If you have played the mobile game Angry Birds on your phone at any time since its release, then you likely have a file at the NSA with your personal information.

A new document released by fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden shows that the NSA has a list of online games that have security leaks which can allow them to obtain information without having to hack into someone’s smartphone.

The program could capture everything from the model of phone and its screen size to someone’s age, gender and GPS location. The apps can also be used to determine sensitive personal information such as a person’s dating preferences or preferred restaurants.

Most smartphone users have no idea of the potential weaknesses in security of smartphone games and the ease with which security groups can obtain their most personal information.

The data skimming from games is part of a $1 billion budget the NSA has used for online spying targeting phones.

NSA Tracking 5 Billion Cell Phone Movements A Day

A new document released by fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden shows that the National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on movements of cell phones around the world.

The records are placed in a database that stores information on at least hundreds of millions of cell devices. The database tracks the movements of the cells and any interactions they could have with other cell devices in their area.

The report says that the NSA does not target Americans by design but that data on Americans is also collected by the system. The report calls the connection “incidentally” meaning legally it was a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

Government officials said there was nothing illegal about the collection of the data and that it was used only to develop intelligence against foreign targets.

The NSA has said the data is used for programs like CO-TRAVELER which allows them to identify unknown associates of known intelligence targets.

A technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union told the Washington Post that the only way to hide your location is to disconnect from modern communications and live in a cave.

Woman Gets Phone Calls From “Satan”

A Colorado woman woke up to find that she missed 48 text messages and a phone call from “Satan.”

Jenn Vest was understandably upset when she saw the messages because she was half-awake feeding her son when she saw the messages. She was so disturbed she spent the rest of the night crying and praying because of the messages.

If you call back the number, it says it’s out of service. The text messages also bounce back as a number that is no longer in service.

Police say the caller IDs of the calls were manipulated to say the origin was Satan with the number 1-666-666-6666.

The prank has reportedly been played around the country.