Why Fake News Fears Will Not Lead To Spike In Subscriptions

Us Brits are the most worried in Europe about fake news -- but we're the least motivated to turn that concern into subscriptions to pay for decent journalism to be fact-checked by professional editors working for reputable publishing companies.

That's the harsh takeaway from YouGov research that shows very nearly two in three Brits are worried about fake news. That's compared to just under or just over half of Swedes and Germans, respectively, being concerned about the phenomenon. 

The trouble is, only one in ten Brits says this means they are responding by subscribing to a news service, although an additional 5% realise they should and are prepared to.

We then have a bunch of "it's something I will get around to" responses, which suggest that roughly one in ten Brits might consider subscribing to a news service over the next few years.

Then we come to perhaps the most damning statistic that 60% of Brits believe they can take other steps to avoid fake news or don't know what to do about it.

Nearly two in three Brits are worried about fake news and nearly the same proportion think they are smart enough to avoid it or just don't know what to do. 

To be honest, the figures are fairly consistent throughout Europe -- even though the UK does have a lead on concern and a slight lead on not seeming to know what to do about that fear or not being bothered enough to find out. 

The picture isn't quite as bleak as this might sound. Around a third of Brits reckon they are protected from fake news by reputable sites -- with, one can presume, the point being that these are free services such as the BBC -- and so no subscription is required. A further 40% say they can check the news themselves for fakery while a fifth say there is no way to be sure.

Readly, the news aggregator that is quoted alongside the figures and so, one might assume, is likely to have funded the research. It claims the statistics show people realise fake news is bad and so are ready to get content from trusted sources. 

I suspect they're trying to suggest people will pay for this, but I'm not so sure that's the case. The figures show that Brits are worried about fake news, and yet only one in ten pays for a subscription to a news service.

The elephant in the room -- particularly with the UK -- is that not all sites behind paywalls are trusted and not all free sites are mistrusted.

I know plenty of people who would (wrongly) consider The Telegraph as fake news and so would never subscribe to what is, actually, a fine newspaper. So, charging does not guarantee that a person believes they are protected from alternative facts, and the like.

With The Guardian and a whole raft of tabloids offering free content there are already a bunch of sites to choose from and the independent public broadcaster sites operated by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as satellite operator "Sky News." 

To put it bluntly, particularly with the latter broadcasters, Brits are well served for independent, quality, free journalism.

So yes, Brits are concerned more about fake news than other European countries. Does this mean there's a huge appetite for subscription services about to throw money over paywalls? Unlikely. Although that is where this survey is hoping to take the industry one need only look at the high number of quality free news sites on offer to realise opting for decent journalism does not equate to taking out a news subscription. 

1 comment about "Why Fake News Fears Will Not Lead To Spike In Subscriptions".
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  1. Daniel Ambrose from, corp., December 2, 2019 at 1:48 p.m.

    Lets not obsess over this stat.  If 15% of the market pays for digital news they trust that is good, and a very big number.  In the glory days of newspapers, many readers didn't pay.  They were the secondary and tertiary readers of papers paid for by others.  "Paid" digital media can still be read by not-so-serious readers who just want a drip or two of the good stuff.  And paid media does need to sample their wares to non-paying readers as a marketing tactic.  And paid digital media has much lower distribution expenses than a paper paying for rolls of paper and delivery a far greater portion of the revenue can drop to the bottom line, or at least cover the fixed expense of news gathering and editing.

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