Czechs lead world in not paying for news

A new report tracks the global habits of people using digital news sources

Czechs have conservative habits when reading news. They are among the world's most reluctant people to pay for internet content, and have a low level of trust in the news they read.

These results come from the 2017 Digital News Report by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Czechs trust the news sources they personally use 37 percent, and the overall level of trust in news was 32 percent. In the 36 countries and territories surveyed, the average level of trust in news was 42 percent. Finland had the highest level, at 62 percent, while South Korea and Greece were at the bottom with 23 percent. Older people in the Czech Republic tended to trust news more than younger people.

When is comes to paying for news with a monthly subscription to a news website, Czech were at the bottom of the ranking. “Payment figures tend to be higher in Nordic countries like Denmark (10 percent), Sweden (12 percent), and Norway (15 percent). However, they fall to just 2 percent in Greece and the Czech Republic. Similarly, just 3 percent in the UK paid for an ongoing news subscription in the last year,” the report said. Some 6 percent of Czechs made some other type of payment for online news aside from a subscription.

“Willingness to pay for online news continues to be among the lowest in Europe. This is certainly both the cause and the consequence of the fact that the majority of Czech online news content remains free. Most content producers are wary of discouraging users with hard paywalls, and instead experiment with freemium models. This is true of tabloid which since 2016 has offered some exclusive paid content, while its sister service … started charging to view all football matches from the national league, previously available for free. A couple of new projects are exploring the premium, exclusive business news,” the report said.

Only 23 percent of Czechs regularly use ad blocking software, which was close to average. “One threat to the news industry seems a little less pressing. Our data show that there has been no significant increase in ad-blocking over the last year. Around a quarter (24 percent) continue to use software that magically removes all advertisements. The figure is highest in Greece (36 percent) and Poland (32 percent) and lowest in Japan (13 percent) and South Korea (12 percent),” the report stated. In countries where people refuse to pay for news, advertising revenue is crucial but new sites receive less money if ads are blocked.

“Crucially, despite industry fears, it has not spread to the smartphone where only less than one in ten (7 percent) have worked out how to install blockers or browsers that block by default,” the report said, adding that younger groups are also almost twice as likely to use ad blockers.

Some 47 percent of Czechs use Facebook for news, while 69 percent use Facebook in general, making it the most widespread social network. Youtube was used by 57 percent of people, but only 21 percent used it for news. Other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Plus were all used by less than 10 percent of Czechs as a news source. These results were pretty close to the global average.

Czech online users’ news habits have not changed dramatically in the past year, although the computer is gradually becoming less dominant among the devices used to access news, according to the report.

For accessing digital news, 72 percent of Czechs use computers, 40 percent use smartphones, 31 percent use tablets, 28 percent use a connected TV and just 1 percent use an e-reader.

On a global level, 58 percent of people use a computer for news, while smartphones have all most caught up, with 56 percent. Tablets lagged at 22 percent.

“Tablet use for news consumption [in the Czech Republic] remains low and stagnating, a tendency which most likely contributed to the closure of the first Czech tablet weekly Dotyk in 2016,” the report said.

The report also contained an analysis of the local market. “The Czech media landscape is characterized by the dominance of commercial television, which attracts nearly half of the total advertising spend, and by a highly concentrated newspaper sector, mostly in the hands of local business tycoons,” the report states.

The Czech advertising market grew 15 percent in 2016. This was mainly due to rising spending on TV, up 19 percent. However online ad spending has grown the fastest, up 31 percent and surpassing print for the first time and increasing its overall share of the advertising market to 21 percent.

Czech daily newspapers circulation has been dropping since 2009 but slowed down last year to an average 3.5 percent. Lidové noviny even saw an increase its circulation.

“In 2016, two ambitious online news projects were started by some of the key media players on the market. The leading web portal and second-biggest search engine launched a news site Seznam Zpravy in October, a combination of daily video and text-based news, as well as video commentaries. … Seznam Zpravy has quickly established itself as the top online news media brand in the country. Towards the end of the year, the media house Czech News Centre (formerly Ringier Axel Springer) launched, a news server with the motto ‘The Power of Facts,’ indicating its aim to emphasize quality and selectiveness over sheer quantity of information offered to the users,” the report said.

Parlamentni listy, a Czech version of Breitbart News, is infamous for disseminating hoaxes and hate speech. The challenges of fake news and disinformation campaigns on social media were heavily discussed in 2016, prompting a response from the government. In December they set up a special unit at the Ministry of Interior, aimed at combating fake news and state-sponsored disinformation,” the report stated.

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