Perception vs reality: News trends in Western Europe

Our latest research findings present considerations for organisations to manage their reputation successfully, unlocking insight to build smarter communications strategies.
27 April 2021
Media Navigator
John McCarthy

Strategic Content Director, Media Division

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Corporate reputation has taken centre stage over the last 12 months, putting communications teams firmly in the spotlight The importance of digital communications channels has undoubtedly accelerated too, with the ever-growing number of news sources and platforms offering both opportunities and challenges.

Today we publish our latest study analysing news and media consumption trends in Western Europe. Through a unique view of 700+ in-house practitioners and 6,000 members of the public it opens a window on five considerations that can empower clients to build smarter communications strategies.

Our findings reveal:

Hype around some channels overstates reality

The gap between perception and reality is a concern, particularly when it comes to faster growing media channels. Communication professionals believe that audiences are now using social influencers (52%) and podcasts (43%) more for news; yet just 7% and 5% of audiences respectively say they do actually use them more.

Young audiences are skewing industry assumptions

Communications practitioners’ assumptions of audiences’ changing behaviour are closer to the actual behaviour of 16–24-year-olds than the wider population of Western Europe. This generation does see social media as their fastest-growing source of news but, even for this demographic, industry perception on the growing influence of social influencers and podcasts is greatly overstated.

Trust is (still) a complicated emotion

Diminishing audience trust in news brands is the biggest challenge facing the industry. While trust in national news brands and broadcasters is holding up relatively well, those levels of trust do not transfer to the social and news aggregator platforms. Social platforms have an average net relative trust rating of -28%, whilst the BBC in the UK rates +58%, ZDF in Germany +67%, and RTE in Ireland +79%.

Digital challenges dominate corporate communicators’ fears

Only 32% of the public are confident they always notice the source of the news they consume on social media. With 57% of industry professionals fearing that online distribution algorithms for news and content are making it harder to reach audiences, what happens when audiences consume a news brand they trust in an environment or platform that they don’t? The benefit of coverage in a trusted news brand may be dissipating as audiences skim quickly through their social media feeds.

Data quality is the biggest data issue for our industry

Whilst the need for real-time delivery and for data integration capabilities are both predicted to grow in importance, nearly four in five (78%) communication professionals feel high-quality data they can trust is the single biggest factor for corporate communicators’ future content data strategy. One third (33%) identify poor-quality data as a significant obstacle to their future strategy.

The full report, available to download here, challenges our collective conventional thinking, identifies new priorities, and underlines the importance of evidence-based insights. It forms part of our 2021 Media Navigator series, a provocative perspective that looks at how data can keep you competitive in an increasingly dynamic, connected world.

Download the report