Over the past several months, PressReader surveyed hundreds of people working in English-language news and publishing around the globe to get a sense of their views on the current state and future direction of the industry – with a particular focus on the problem of news deserts.

Most respondents recognized news deserts as a growing issue but had varying opinions on its causes. Our survey respondents were predominantly optimistic about the future, in particular, the role that technology might play in reducing the spread of news deserts.

A few key findings from PressReader’s survey:

    • Over 86% of respondents agreed that local news access is vital to democracy. 91.7% of respondents involved in the newspaper industry agree that local news access is vital to democracy. However, more than 45% said they believe that access to local news has actually decreased in the past decade.
    • Over 60% of respondents said they believed that news deserts had become a problem with more than a quarter saying that news deserts were becoming an increasingly significant problem. 15% believed news deserts were not a significant problem.
    • Just under half of respondents were somewhat or very pessimistic about the industry’s ability to reverse the problem, but over 32% were somewhat or very confident that the industry would be able to address the issue of news deserts and reverse this threat to democracy.
    • 64.6% thought Big Tech had had a negative impact on news access, while 23.1% felt that it had a positive impact.
    • 52.1% assessed social media to have had a negative impact, while 38.8% believed the rise of social media had had a positive impact on news access.

Hope for the future

We also asked our survey respondents a series of questions about the future of the industry. We wanted to know what role they thought technology might play in reversing trends that have negatively impacted access to news and contributed to the growth of news deserts. Here’s what they told us:

    • Respondents were predominately – if not quite majority – optimistic about the ability of tech to have a positive impact on issues that have contributed to the growth of news deserts. However, the one question to which a majority of respondents answered optimistically was arguably the question most relevant to reversing the trend of news deserts. Just over half of respondents were confident or optimistic that emerging technologies could help sustain or even increase access to local news.
    • 48.2% believed that technology might have the capacity to help increase profits in the news and publishing industry overall, as opposed to 27.3% who were pessimistic about the notion.
    • Slightly fewer, 44.4%, were confident or optimistic that technology could facilitate greater or more sustainable profits for smaller and local publishers as well as independent journalists.
    • Likewise, 42.5% were at least somewhat confident or optimistic these technologies could help local publishers and independent journalists remain independent. There was slightly more negativity on this measure, with 35% pessimistic about the proposition.

For the full-text report or media inquiries, please contact Eva Wu at evaw@pressreader.com or call 778-238-3594