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Social is 'gateway' to news in Asia

News, 23 November 2016

ASIA-PACIFIC: The role of social media in disseminating news has been much debated following the US presidential election, but recent research shows that consumers in certain Asian markets rely on this channel to a far greater extent than do those in the US.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism surveyed more than 1,000 people in each of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan for an Asia-Pacific supplement to its Digital News Report 2016, which already covered Japan and South Korea.

This found that online news sources, including social media, dominated in all markets, except Japan where TV remains the leading channel.

Reliance on the internet was greatest in Malaysia and Korea, although the report added that these are also two countries in the region where news is least trusted (although even here it's still given more credence than in the US).

Social media were "a significant gateway" to news across all these markets, it said, but especially so in Malaysia and Singapore, where a quarter of respondents named social media as their primary source of news.

In contrast, consumers in Japan and Korea preferred to use search and aggregators, including portals such as Yahoo Japan and Naver, as ways to find news online.

Accompanying the rise of social has been the use of mobile devices to access news, with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia all being smartphone-first markets.

But the rise of mobile and social media has not by itself marginalised news media brands, which the report said continue to be important sources of news across devices and channels.

And the main reason is that "trust in news remains tied to news media brands more than to journalists", although that view varied significantly between markets and depended on perceptions of undue political and/or commercial influence.

"The relationship between publishers and platforms does not need to be zero sum," said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, RISJ Director of Research and report co-author, noting that "some publishers still have a strong position and direct connections with large parts of the audience."

"Mobile alerts and notifications seem to be key to maintaining this position in a changing environment," he added.

Data sourced from Reuters Institute of the Study of Journalism; additional content by Warc staff