A new University of Canberra report has found over three-quarters of Australian news consumers would miss their local media service if it were gone.
Despite this, only 14% of consumers are willing to pay for their news online.
The Digital News Report: Australia 2020 was released today (Tuesday 16 June) and follows the closure of more than 150 newsrooms in Australia over the past 18 months.
Results showed that 81% of the study respondents would miss local radio, followed closely by local TV news (79%), local newspapers (76%) and local online news sources (74%).
Report lead author, Dr Sora Park, said the results found that people in rural areas, the elderly or those with lower education would suffer most from the closure of local news outlets.
“People in rural or regional areas along with the elderly tend to access and rely on regional and local newspapers,” she said.
“This is opposed to people with higher education, who, among the local news sources, supplement their consumption with other sources of news.”
Findings revealed 45% of consumers reported a very or extremely high interest in local news; however, trends saw this was lower in younger generations.
Only 18% of Gen Z (born 1995-2010) recorded an interest in local news.
Dr Park said that while this may look concerning for the future of media, traditional news outlets needed to cater to their younger audiences.
“It’s a very interesting result that young people aren’t interested in news in general, but it is especially low for local news,” she said.
“Although the study does find they have a very high interest in climate change news, and we did another study in April about COVID-19 news and Gen Z surged a lot, so if they are finding news relevant they are seeking it.
“We can’t predict the future, but it may be that the mainstream media is not catering to the needs of younger audiences.”
The annual survey is in its sixth year and is run by the University of Canberra News and Media Research Centre as part of a global research project.
Since 2016, the number of people paying for an ongoing news subscription has increased by 8%.
Dr Park said while the increase was promising, it was occurring at a very slow rate.
“I think it’s habit. We have never paid much for news in the past and it was always supported by advertising,” she said.
“Now that advertising has been heavily affected from the pandemic, and people are finding other ways to advertise, newspapers in particular are suffering.
“We do see an upward trajectory in the numbers of people paying for news subscriptions, but we don’t know how quickly that will continue so that news services can survive.”