India’s news media fared poorly when compared to its counterparts in other countries on the metric of audience trust.
Only 36% of the surveyed respondents said they trusted “news overall”, while 39% of the respondents said they trust “news I use”, according to a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford.
The 2018 RISJ Digital News Report found that “the average level of trust in the news in general remains relatively stable at 44%, with just over half (51%) agreeing that they trust the news media they themselves use most of the time”.
The 2018 report surveyed 74,194 respondents in 37 countries that are largely in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
The maiden report on India focuses on English-speaking Internet users in the country, and “as a result is skewed towards male, affluent and educated respondents”.
Nonetheless, it reveals multiple findings about how a small, yet significant number of Indians find and perceive news, and how the news media industry could shape up in the future.
The report, released on Monday, is based on a survey of 1,013 respondents to an online survey conducted in January this year.
Findings from India also differed from western trends with 45% of respondents saying they trust news found via search engines compared to only 34% globally.
In addition, 34% of Indians surveyed said they trusted news found through social media, in contrast to only 23% of global respondents.
The report further says 57% of Indian respondents are worried whether online news they come across is real or fake. When asked about different kinds of potential disinformation, many respondents expressed concern over content that is highly biased (51%), poor journalism (51%) as well as false news (50%).
This small segment of India’s population that was surveyed relies heavily on social media platforms (like Facebook and Instagram), messaging platforms (like WhatsApp) and search engines (like Google) to access news.
This means only 18% of respondents directly go to news websites or apps. In other words, a vast majority of users access news through “side-door access”, which means either via search, social or messaging platforms.
“We are glad to be able to offer this report as a snapshot of this development and how the rise of mobile media, social media platforms, and messaging applications is in the process of changing how Indians access news and engage with it, including low trust in much news and rising concerns about various kinds of disinformation,” writes Rasmus Klein Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute and Professor of Political Communication at Oxford University, who is also one of the report’s authors.
He also notes that India has remained ‘conspicuously
absent’ from the previous seven editions of the report.
Unsurprisingly, India is a mobile-first market with 68% respondents saying their smartphone is the primary device of accessing news, with 31% of respondents saying they use only their mobile phone to get news.
Facebook and WhatsApp are particularly widely used, with 75% of respondents using Facebook (and 52% saying they get news there), and 82% using WhatsApp (with 52% getting news there). Other social media widely used for news include Instagram (26%), Twitter (18%), and Facebook Messenger (16%).
Online news generally (56%), and social media specifically (28%), have outpaced print (16%) as the main source of news among respondents under thirty-five years of age, whereas respondents over 35 still mix online and offline