WhatsApp, fake news and gadgets: 5 interesting trends in digital news

Here's what we learned from the latest Reuters Institute report on digital news consumption.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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People are more and more willing to share news via messaging apps, says the Reuters Institute's latest report on digital media. The research, released Thursday, was based on a YouGov survey of over 74,000 online news consumers in 37 countries.

We also learned fewer people are looking to social media for news and that mobile alerts are gaining importance. Here're five other takeaways:

Fake news undermines public trust
Fifty-four percent of respondents are concerned with the authenticity of news online. Concern is highest in Brazil, at 85 percent; Spain, 69 percent; and the US, 64 percent. Also, over 70 percent of people think publishers and the platforms are responsible for fixing the issues around fake news.

Voice assistants are the new broadcasters
Use of voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home has doubled since last year. Forty-three percent of device owners use such devices to access news, with flash briefings or similar features.

Messaging apps seem to provide more freedom of speech
People are relying less on Facebook for news and branching out to messaging apps, which the report suggests offer more privacy and convenience. For example, WhatsApp has become an important vehicle for news in authoritarian countries, with 54 percent of respondents using it in Malaysia, 48 percent in Brazil and 30 percent in Turkey. In addition, 65 percent of respondents prefer to get news through a different app than a news publication's website or app. The fastest growing gateway for news over the past three years has been mobile news alerts, such as Apple News.

Smart devices continue to grow
Sixty-two percent of people surveyed say they rely on their smartphones for news weekly, that's slightly behind laptops and computers, at 64 percent. In most countries, news-reach on smartphones has doubled since 2013. The report suggests that shorter audience attention span and the size of mobile screens are affecting news content in general. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram offer new ways of storytelling.

Most of the US still doesn't want to pay for news
The "Trump Bump" in news subscriptions continues in the US, with 16 percent of respondents saying they've paid for online news in the last year. Donation and donation-based memberships are emerging as a significant alternative for news in the US, the UK and Spain. The report finds these payments are connected to younger consumers' political beliefs.

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