Depressed and depressing: the state of UK news media

Depressed and depressing: the state of UK news media

There’s not much good news for UK media in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019.

The UK is suffering from news fatigue. Media coverage of Brexit is impacting the mood of the nation according to Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019.

You can download a copy of the report by following this link.

More than a third (35%) of citizens claim that they avoid the news in the UK with the majority citing Brexit as the main reason.

The UK is suffering a collective breakdown triggered by the new media. UK citizens report that the news negatively affects their mood and they feel powerless to affect events.

Trust in the news has fallen 11% since 2015. Even the most trusted brands like the BBC are seen as biased especially on issues such as Brexit and climate change.

News media in pain

Newspaper brands continue to suffer as readers shift from print to digital.

Popular newspaper brands have suffered double digit falls in print circulation with the Daily Star (-18%), Daily Mirror (-13%), and Daily Express (-12%) hardest hit.

Broadsheet titles have also suffered significant year on year declines in print but are pinning their hopes on new online revenue.

Advertising-supported media has been affected by widespread job cuts including around a dozen people at digital-born BuzzFeed.

The local and regional sector that has been hit hardest with the net closure of 245 local news titles in the last 13 years according to Press Gazette research.

This is the story that has played out over the past two decades as advertising revenues have shifted from print to online. Facebook and Google account for almost 60% of the online advertising market.

Facebook, fake news and BBC under pressure

Good news is hard to find. Blame is directed squarely at social media platforms and the BBC.

Regulation of social media platforms seems to be inevitable in response to increasing political scrutiny.

A House of Lords Select Committee called for a principle-led approach to internet regulation in March. It followed a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee report published in February that called out Facebook for failing to tackle fake news.

The BBC faces pressure from politicians and commercial rivals for pedalling soft news on its BBC News web site however the BBC local democracy reporting scheme has supported the creation of more than 130 new jobs in news rooms, delivering 50,000 stories in its first year.

New models and content formats

Alternative business models such as BBC local democracy project and content formats such as audio offer a glimmer of hope although revenues are limited despite the best efforts of the news industry.

More than a million people worldwide have voluntarily contributed to The Guardian in the last three years, with 650,000 currently paying to support the publication on an ongoing basis.

A new slow news venture, Tortoise News, launched in April with 2,500 members. It’s an open model of journalism is which readers and the communities on which it reports are invited into the newsroom

More publishers are getting involved in audio. The Guardian, The Economist, and the FT have launched or rebranded daily news podcasts in the last year.

The BBC is investing heavily in smart speakers and AI while the Guardian has set up an experimental Voice Lab.


The study was commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Research was conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire in January and February 2019. More than 2,000 UK citizens responded.

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