‘For Indians, smartphone is primary source of news’

(From left) N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Publishing Group, Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, in Chennai on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

India is a ‘mobile first’ market far more than any other region in terms of accessing news, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said here on Wednesday.

“Instead of going directly to news organisations for news, they discover it via social media, often based out of the United States of America,” said Mr. Nielsen at the Asian College of Journalism.

“We also find that the very high use of social media to access, share and engage with news is accompanied with possible implications of people expressing their political views,” he said, speaking about the Indian Digital News Report by the Institute.

Fake news

“It happens against the backdrop of very high concerns over “fake news” and various forms of disinformation. People say that they are concerned about this, both online and offline,” Mr. Nielsen said.

The report is based on data from a survey of English-speaking, online news users in India — a small but important subset of a larger, more diverse, and very complex Indian media market.

Mr. Nielsen said the study showed that these factors had reduced the trust of news media in general.

“When compared to other markets, 68% of Indian respondents said that the smartphone is their main device for accessing news online — a far higher figure even compared to high-income democracies such as the United States and Germany and medium income countries like Brazil and Turkey,” he said.

Elaborating on how news online is mostly “dominated by distributed discovery,” Mr. Nielsen said only 18% of the respondents accessed news directly via the website of the news organisations or the mobile application.

“More than 80% identify various forms of distributed discovery such as search engines, social media, news aggregators... often controlled by platforms. These numbers are very, very high in India.”

He said Facebook remained one of the main ways in which people accessed news, along with the messaging application WhatsApp.

Tech companies?

After Mr. Nielsen’s presentation, there was a panel discussion with N. Ram, Chairman, The Hindu Publishing Group; C.P. Chandrasekhar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Krishna Prasad, former Editor-in-Chief, Outlook; and Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Asian College of Journalism.

Raising the philosophical issue of allowing companies such as Google to call themselves “technology” firms, Mr. Ram said it may be a large extent...that they don’t create content. And that they were not publishers.

“I challenge the second. You give them a gift by calling them platforms. It is time to challenge it, drawing lessons from European publishers.”

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 8:24:16 PM |

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