Online news, social media outpace print as main news source for readers under 35: Report

Within social media, Facebook and WhatsApp are particularly widely used. Other social media platform widely used for news are Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger

e4m by Dipali Banka
Updated: Mar 28, 2019 8:21 AM

Online news and social media have outpaced print as the main source of news among those under 35 years of age, according to the Reuters India Digital News Report 2019. As many as 56% of the respondents said they prefer online news while 28% said they prefer social media. Only 16% said they prefer print.

According to the report, which studies how digital news is being used in India, 68% of respondents identify smartphones as their main device for online news and 31% say they only use mobile devices for accessing online news. These figures are markedly higher than in other markets, including developing ones such as Brazil and Turkey.

Further analysing how the sample accesses news, the report says that only 18% of the respondents consider direct access their main way of getting news online. An overwhelming majority of respondents identify various forms of distributed discovery as their main way of accessing news online with ‘search’ at 32% and various kind of social media sources at 24%. 

Within social media, Facebook and WhatsApp are particularly widely used, with 75% of the respondents using Facebook (and 52% saying they get news there), and 82% using WhatsApp (with 52% getting news there). Other social media platform widely used for news are Instagram (26%), Twitter (18%) and Facebook Messenger (16%).

Other key findings of the report:

Navigating news on social media: 56% of respondents say they decide on the basis of who shared the post, while for 63%, the headline is very important, and for 58%, the brand. 

WhatsApp widely used for news: 82% use the messaging application, and 52% reported getting news on WhatsApp, far higher numbers than most markets in Europe and North America, but comparable, for example, to Brazil.  

Online and offline sources of news: Among the respondents over 35, online (38%) and television (34%) are about equally widely named as the main source of news, and print (27%) still more widely relied on than social media (19%).

Legacy brands popular with online news consumers: NDTV (56% offline, 47% online) and The Times of India (46% offline, 40% online) are far more widely used among our respondents than any other brands. 



Trust in news- media versus platforms: Only 39% of respondents say they trust the ‘news they use’ most of the time, and just 36% say they trust the ‘news in general’ most of the time.

Given these low levels of trust, it is striking that respondents express greater confidence in the news they access via search engines (45%) and similar levels of trust in the news they access via social media (34%).


Future Trends-

Appetite for online news video:  35% of respondents say they would like to see more online video news.

Video viewing moving offsite: Just 35% of respondents say they have watched online video news on a publisher’s website or app, compared to 73% who have watched online video news on offsite platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.


Ad-blocking:  Even though many publishers have taken steps to tackle ad-blocking, a third of respondents continue to use ad-blockers.

Opportunities around voice-activated speakers and audio: 9% of the English-language internet user respondents say they currently use a voice-activated system, and more than half of these (5%) use them to access news.

Will Indians pay for online news: Of the respondents who do not currently pay, 39% said they are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to pay for news in the next year (much more than users in the United States), and 9% said they were ‘very likely’ to pay for online news in the future.

Sample & methodology

The report surveyed 1,013 individuals in the month of January 2019 who consumed news online in the past one month.

“The sample is skewed towards male, affluent and educated respondents” says the report. The sample is reflective of English-speaking population in India that has access to the internet. “As an online survey, the results will further under-represent the consumption habits of people who are not online (typically older, less affluent, and with limited formal education).”

The study has been commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, sponsored by The Hindu Media Group,  The Quint, The Indian Express, and the Press Trust of India and was conducted online by YouGov.

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