Boosting consumer trust and exploiting willingness to pay among top opportunities for news publishers and media companies

With a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and chaotic elections, consumers around the world are more frequently turning to their favorite news sources to stay informed. Digital news subscriptions have jumped for many top publishers (e.g., The New York Times, The Guardian, CNBC), and news networks are seeing record ratings. As news consumption grows, more global consumers also say they are now more willing to pay for reliable, well-researched news than before, according to Altman Solon’s 2020 Global Sports & News Survey. While this news boom is a welcome trend for an industry shaped by upheaval over the past decade, the survey also shows growing public distrust in certain news sources and advertising, notably on social media.

Global TV news viewing high

Globally, most consumers watch live news regularly. We found in our survey that more than half of respondents said they watch news on live TV daily or weekly. In the U.S. and Europe, 65-70% of respondents watch news at least weekly, while in Latin America it jumps to 85-90% of respondents. More than two-thirds of consumers say they watch news daily in Brazil, Colombia, and Chile with daily viewing checking in lower in the U.S. and U.K. at slightly over 50%.

COVID-19 boosts news interest globally

Interest in news and news viewership has increased due to the pandemic. Respondents in all countries tested say they are watching more news due to the pandemic, with Latin American respondents reporting the biggest increase in weekly news viewing. In the U.S. and U.K., the majority (55% and 58%) say they are watching more news each week, out of which nearly half are watching 3+ hours more news each week. In Germany, 47% have increased their news consumption, opposed to only 2% who are watching less than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Willingness to pay stronger in Americans than Europe

Many respondents say they are now more willing to pay for reliable information due to the pandemic. In the U.S., since COVID, nearly one-third of Americans (30%) are more willing to pay for well-researched and reliable news due to the pandemic. Willingness to pay is significantly lower in countries with a strong public broadcasting system, such as France, Germany, and the U.K. In those countries less than 20% report they are more willing to pay for reliable news.

Most of these respondents say their increased willingness to pay for news will continue after the pandemic. In the U.S., 82% of respondents who are more willing to pay due to COVID will continue to do so after the pandemic. We also see high willingness to continue paying for reliable information in European countries, although at slightly lower levels than in the U.S. and Latin America.

Trust critical to news success

For media companies, the pandemic has presented significant challenges due to a strong decline in advertising revenue and postponement of sports leagues and key events, such as NCAA Basketball’s March Madness and the UEFA European Championship. On the other hand, the current climate also provides growth opportunities by boosting demand and willingness to pay for reliable and trusted information and content. Media companies can build on current usage and habits to lock in customers and introduce new products and services that will reap benefits in the long term.

One of the reasons people are more willing to pay for reliable news now is that the pandemic and other recent events have increased the importance of trust in news. For TV, the highest share of respondents state that their trust in the news source has significantly or slightly increased. While 17% of consumers in the U.S. trust TV news, those trust levels rise in Germany (24%) the U.K (22%) with their strong public broadcasting systems. Newspapers and free online news generally have high trust amongst readers and have been able to increase trust with 9-15% of respondents in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. Online newspapers with paywall and podcasts have the lowest share of respondents indicating increased trust, potentially driven by their lower reach.

Respondents also say that they find ads in traditional media most trustworthy. While 14-16% in the U.S. state that ads on TV-channels and in print are very trustworthy, only 8% feel the same way about ads on social media. The contrast is even stronger in Europe, especially in Germany, where 34% find ads on public TV-channels very trustworthy (25% print, 17% private TV-channels), opposed to 5% on social media.

Media companies have the immediate opportunity to capitalize on recent positive trends in news viewership and subscribership as consumers seek timely and reliable information. In addition, news providers have strong arguments for advertisers as not only has their reach increased, but they also provide brand safe environments due to higher trust among consumers – a trust that is transferred to ads. Maintaining and growing usage and trust, especially amongst attractive target segments where news viewing and subscribership are higher, will benefit news publishers, audiences, and advertisers.

Altman Solon conducted the 2020 Global Sports & News Survey in August-September with more than 14,000 respondents across 10 countries. Altman Solon tapped its expertise across Europe and the Americas following this summer’s merger of the U.S.-based Altman Vilandrie and Europe-based Solon Consulting to form the world’s largest Telecommunications, Media, and Technology consulting firm. Results shown are from Altman Solon’s 2020 Global Sports & News Survey, which was completed and released in October. To see more results from the survey, please click here.

Leadership and Oversight 

Christian Esser | Partner | Christian.Esser@altmansolon.com
Jonathan Hurd | Partner | Jonathan.Hurd@altmansolon.com
Matt Del Percio | Director | Matt.DelPercio@altmansolon.com
Christoph Sommer | Manager | Christoph.Sommer@altmansolon.com