Use of online news

The devices used are of interest, as well as the preferred forms of presentation, access routes, the role of social networking sites as well as the payment behavior and the acceptance or rejection of financing through advertising.

Used devices

The advantage in the use of laptops or PCs compared to the smartphone is reduced. This applies both to general usage and to the specific use of retrieving messages. 72 percent of online users over the age of 18 use a computer and 70 percent use their smartphone (Figure 15). The computer is still the most used device, but the difference has dropped from 6 percentage points in the previous year to 2 percentage points. The difference in message usage also dropped from 17 percentage points to 10 percentage points. Although the share of people using the smartphone at least weekly to retrieve messages (40%) has not increased, the proportion of those using the computer for world information has declined (2016: 57%).

The age limit below which the use of the smartphone exceeds the use of the computer for news has moved up in 2017. Under-45s online use the smartphone more often than their laptop or PC (Figure 16). In the past year, this was only the case for under 35-year-old Internet users. A similar picture emerges with respect to the device most commonly used for information about current world events.

3.2 Finding Content

One of the topics that is currently much discussed is the role of search engines and social media to find content on the Internet or whether a brand is sufficiently visible in the variety of search results and algorithm-based filters offered. For news-related content, this question can be answered. In 2017, adult online users in Germany most often name the direct access to a news website or a news app as an access route (Fig. 18). 34 percent of online people over the age of 18 regularly choose this direct route; in 2016 it was still 27 percent. By far, access to news content via social media (22%) and search for a news topic using a search engine (18%). Comparatively often, however, search engines are also used as a quick and uncomplicated way to get targeted to a specific website (22%). Overall, search engines were named by 32 percent of respondents as a regular access channel to news – in the past year, there were still 37 percent.

Overall, it shows that in Germany, the news brand is the most important factor for finding news content. It is accessed directly by almost every second adult online (49%), either through direct access to the website or app or by searching for the brand with a search engine. However, other non-branded ways to deliver news content are less common: 39 percent of online respondents use text-based offerings through thematic search results, social media, or web pages that bundle various news offerings. In other countries, social media, aggregators and keyword search play a much greater role in accessing news than in Germany. Nevertheless, on the average of the 36 countries surveyed, access via one news brand (0 = 62%) is more widespread than the other accesses (0 = 57%).

The use of certain access paths is related to the most commonly used terminal for messages. When mainly laptops and tablets are used for news information about world events, access via the call of a news brand clearly dominates over the other approaches. In the case of the smartphone as the most important device for retrieving online news, calling a brand on the one hand and results from search engines, aggregators and social media on the other are similarly widespread. At this point, effects that are associated with the smartphone as “favorite device”, the preference for social media, and age overlap.

The tendency in Germany to directly target a brand in the use of news is even more evident in the answers to the question of the main access route to online news. In turn, almost every second on-line user over the age of 18 (47%) prefers to directly access a news feed, either through access to the page or app or by entering the mark in a search engine. A total of 32 percent mainly use one of the algorithmized access paths. In the youngest age group of online 18 to 24 year-olds, these are more frequently mentioned as the most important access route (43%) than direct access to a news brand (39%). However, in the following age groups, ages 25+, the brand’s dominance as an important factor is quite clear.

Conforming messages and source diversity

Based on the news users receive when using aggregators, social media, or search engines, we were interested in how the results found match their own interests and expectations against the background of the algorithmic customization of “filter bases”. In terms of both news aggregators and social media, around 30 percent of users say they often receive news they do not care about, while around 40 percent say no (Figure 23) Thirds of users that search results also contain links that have nothing to do with the desired content, as well as the fact that a third of respondents do not share a clear opinion on this issue In most cases, the user perspective will not be talked about They only receive messages that match their interests. However, the data does not provide a deeper understanding of whether users see it as a benefit or a disadvantage when faced with messages that are not in their interests.