A significant number of Indian audiences use social media apps such as YouTube (53%) and WhatsApp (51%) for accessing news, according to findings from a survey by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. India is a strongly mobile-focused market, with 72% accessing news through smartphones and only 35% via computers. News aggregator platforms and apps such as Google News (53%), Daily Hunt (25%), InShorts (19%), and NewsPoint (17%) have become an important way to access news and are valued for convenience. Further, the digital market saw an overall growth of 29% in 2021, with advertising and subscription revenues growing at 29% each.
Other than YouTube and WhatsApp, Facebook (43%), Instagram (32%), Twitter (22%) and Telegram (21%) are important social media apps for news. Overall, 60% of consumers share news via social media, messaging or email.
These data are based on a survey of mainly English-speaking, online news users in India – a small subset of a larger, more diverse, media market, the report says. Respondents are generally more affluent, younger, have higher levels of formal education, and are more likely to live in cities than the wider Indian population.
Online platforms remain the source of news for 84% of the respondents, with social media accounting for 63% on its own, television remaining a choice for 59% and print for 49% of consumers. Other than smartphones and computers, 15% also access news via tablets.
The popularity of social media is a concern for policy-makers as these platforms are also rife with misinformation, as well as incessant trolling and abuse, the report says. In April this year, the government banned several YouTube news channels for spreading misinformation that harmed the ‘national security’ and ‘foreign relations’ of the country. The ban was carried out under the recent IT rules framed in February 2021 that have been challenged by social media platforms and news publishers alike.
India is ranked 150th in the World Press Freedom Index 2022, dropping eight places from the previous year, indicating challenging times for press freedom in the country. Meanwhile new accreditation rules have been introduced for journalists by the ministry of information and broadcasting which state, among other conditions, that accreditation could be suspended if work is deemed to harm the larger interests and sovereignty of the nation.
As far as trust in media goes, India ranks 20 among 46 markets, with 44% saying they trust the news they consume. Legacy print brands and public broadcasters continue to enjoy high trust among the survey respondents, while 24-hour television news channels are less well trusted – along with newer digital-born brands, the report says. 36% of consumers think media are independent from undue political or government influence while 35% feel it is independent from undue business or commercial influence.