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News Fatigue in Germany on the Rise

News Fatigue in Germany on the Rise

Interest in news continued to decline in 2023. 52 per cent of adult internet users in Germany say that they are extremely or very interested in news (2022: 57%). The reach of news overall is also slightly declining in the long-term view. 89 per cent of adult internet users in Germany read, listen to, or watch news more than once a week (2022: 92%). The tendency to avoid news is just as high in 2023 as in the previous year. One in ten often actively tries to avoid news, 65% try to do so at least occasionally. Especially news about the Ukraine war is currently avoided. At the same time, more than half of the respondents say they are extremely or very interested in positive or solution-oriented news.

These are the findings of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023, whose German sub-study was conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg. The study is based on a total of 93,895 respondents from 46 countries on six continents. The survey was conducted in January 2023.

  • Study available for download: Behre, Julia; Hölig, Sascha; Möller, Judith (2023): Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 – Ergebnisse für Deutschland [Findings for Germany]. Hamburg: Verlag Hans-Bredow-Institut, June 2023 (Working Papers of the Hans-Bredow-Institut | Project Findings No. 67), https://doi.org/10.21241/ssoar.86851
News Avoidance Stays at a High Level
The trend towards news avoidance remains stable, following significant increases in recent years. As in the previous year, in 2023 one in ten internet users aged 18 and older often actively try to avoid the news; 65 per cent try to do so at least occasionally. 29 per cent of respondents who avoid news at least occasionally specifically avoid certain topics. News about the war in the Ukraine is avoided most often, followed by news about entertainment or celebrities, health and sports. While older respondents aged 55 and older state somewhat more frequently that they specifically avoid certain news topics, people aged 18 to 24 tend to access news less frequently or prioritise activities that have nothing to do with news.
At the same time, more than half (58%) of adult internet users in Germany are extremely or very interested in positive news. Interest is also high in news that suggests solutions rather than just pointing out problems (53%) and news that helps people understand complex issues (50%).
Trust in News Continues to Decline
43 per cent of adult internet users in Germany believe that most news can usually be trusted. This is seven percentage points less than in 2022 (50%) and the lowest number of respondents since the question was first included in the Reuters Institute Digital News Survey in 2015. The trust placed in selected well-known news brands is also slightly down on the previous year.
At the same time, a good third (34%) of internet users aged 18 and older frequently see or hear about journalists or the news media being criticised in Germany. Respondents who place themselves more on the right or left fringe of the political spectrum come into contact with such media criticism proportionately more often (47% and 48% respectively) than those in the political centre (34%).
High Trust in Public Service News, but Lower Relevance for Younger People
The main news of the public broadcasters "Tagesschau" and "heute" are still the two offerings with the highest trust values among the selected brands known to the respondents in 2023. In addition, a total of 47 per cent of adult internet users in Germany say that publicly funded news media such as ARD and ZDF are important to them personally, and 52 per cent consider them important to society. Overall, respondents aged 55 and older attribute a significantly higher personal and societal relevance to public news media than younger respondents. Thus, more than a third (35%) of 18 to 24-year-olds are undecided on the question of whether publicly funded news media are important or unimportant for society.
Traditional News Providers Dominate Use on the Internet, Importance of Social Media as Main News Source Increases
To find out about current local, national, or international events, most adult internet users in Germany in 2023 use the internet. 63 per cent use online news on the websites or apps of news providers or in social media at least once a week (2022: 68%). News programmes on linear television are watched by 59 per cent of respondents in a normal week (2022: 65%). Compared to the previous year, the weekly use of news offerings on television, radio and print as well as on the internet has declined slightly. Overall, news usage on the internet is dominated by traditional news providers from TV, radio, and print. 43 per cent regularly read, watch, or listen to the content of established news; among 18 to 24-year-olds, the figure is 46 per cent. For 44 per cent in this age group, social media is a regular source of news; this is eleven percentage points less than in 2022.
The most important news source for 43 per cent of adult internet users continues to be linear television and for 39 per cent it is news offerings on the internet. 14 per cent find news mainly on social media; this share has risen steadily over the long term and, at 35 per cent, is highest among 18 to 24-year-olds. For 15 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, social media are also the only source of news.
TikTok Gains Slightly in Reach
Most social networking platforms have lost reach in recent years. Only TikTok has seen a slight increase in reach and is used by 12 per cent of adult internet users at least once a week for any purpose in 2023. However, WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook remain the most used social media overall. These three platforms are also the offerings in this category that most adult internet users use regularly to search, read, view, share or discuss news (WhatsApp 14%, YouTube 16%, Facebook 14%). News content on Instagram reaches 22 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 in a normal week, followed by YouTube at 15 per cent and TikTok at nine per cent.
Scepticism about Personalisation of News by Algorithms

The classic selection of news by journalistic actors is considered a good way to get news by a total of 29 per cent of adult internet users in Germany, while 27 per cent rate the automatic selection of reports based on information retrieved earlier by the respondents as a good option. Automatic selection of news based on information retrieved from friends tends to be rejected by 40 per cent of respondents.
In addition, 37 per cent of adult internet users in Germany are concerned that they could miss other important information due to more personalised news. 36 per cent express concern about possibly missing out on opposing opinions. In response to algorithmic personalisation, just under half (49%) of respondents at least occasionally try to change what news and information they see on online platforms, for example by blocking or muting certain accounts. The most cited reason for this is the desire for more reliable content and for more diverse perspectives and views.

Willingness to Pay for Online News Stagnates
After a positive trend in paying for online news in the previous year, this has weakened slightly again in 2023. Eleven per cent of respondents say they have spent money on digital news (2022: 14%). Continuous payment in the form of a subscription or membership is the most frequently chosen payment model. Respondents who pay for online news in this way mainly want to use the money to support good journalism or refer to a good offer or trial subscription. The most frequently cited reasons for possibly paying for online news in the future are lower prices and less or no advertising.
Online Participation
As before, only a small proportion of respondents actively participate in news reporting on social media. 14 per cent of adult internet users regularly like news posts and eight per cent each share and comment on them there. Another 18 per cent regularly read user comments in social media. There is a tendency for the young age group of between 18 and 24 years to be somewhat more active participants than the average population. In addition, it can again be observed that internet users who place themselves on the left or right of the political spectrum interact proportionately more frequently with news content than users in the political centre.

Twelve per cent of adult internet users in Germany have had predominantly negative experiences with interactions relating to online news or in social media. The majority (42%), however, would describe their experiences with online participation as neither positive nor negative.
Beyond active participation in news reporting, this year's survey looked at how respondents perceive political discourse online and off. Here, 46 per cent of respondents felt they had to be careful about what they said about politics online. In conversations about politics beyond the internet, such as in face-to-face conversations or on the phone, about a third (34%) feel they must be careful with what they say.
Information on the Study
Since 2012, the Reuters Institute Digital News Survey has investigated general trends and national characteristics of news usage annually through representative surveys in now 46 countries. What types of news are of interest? Which channels are used to find them? Which providers are trusted and what are people's views on the news media?

Coordinated by the Oxford-based Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in the UK, the 2023 study was conducted simultaneously in the following countries: Argentina1, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil1, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile1, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece1, Hong Kong, Hungary, India1, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya1, Malaysia1, Mexico[1], Netherlands, Nigeria1, Norway, Peru, Philippines1, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa1, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey1, United Kingdom and the United States. This was done to identify general trends as well as national characteristics. Around 2,000 people were surveyed per country in 2023. The eleventh repetition of the study is based on the answers of 93,895 respondents from 46 countries on six continents.

The fieldwork was carried out between 10 and 31 January 2023 by the YouGov survey institute, which drew samples based on online access panels that are representative of internet users aged 18 and older in the participating countries. The results presented are thus representative of the German population aged 18 and older with internet access in 2023.

The Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut has been responsible for the German part of the study as a cooperation partner since 2013; the survey in 2023 was supported by the state media authorities and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF).

The full report with all international findings will be presented to the public in London on 14 June 2023 and will then also be made available via the HBI website.

Further information on the study can be found here: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/ (English) and on the HBI project page www.leibniz-hbi.de (German).
Julia Behre, j.behre@leibniz-hbi.de
Information on the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
The Institute was founded in 2006 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and is based in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. The Institute is an internationally active research centre for comparative journalism that takes a global perspective in its research and provides a forum for researchers from a wide range of disciplines to meet with journalists from around the world. More at http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/.
Information on the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
The Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut researches media change and the associated structural changes in public communication. Cross-media, interdisciplinary and independent, it combines basic science and transfer research and thus creates problem-relevant knowledge for politics, commerce, and civil society. In 2019, the institute was accepted into the Leibniz Association. More at https://leibniz-hbi.de/en.
[1]      Limited representativeness of the sample.

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash


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