Finland has the highest overall trust in the news, and Norway has the most paying news subscribers. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in fleeing advertisers and limited physical distribution, resulting in an economic crunch for many publishers and the acceleration of subscription and membership models. Nordic public service websites saw increasing usage. These are some of the findings from the Nordics in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021.
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford has released the tenth annual Digital News Report.
Six new countries have been added in 2021, and this year’s study investigates the influence of Covid-19 on the news industry worldwide and the financial implications for publishers.
The report also examines progress made on new paid online business models, trust and misinformation, local news, impartiality and fairness in news coverage of specific groups.
Below, some of the key findings involving the Nordics are presented.
Paying for news – Norway leads for third year in a row
The number of people paying for news has increased significantly in a few richer Western countries, but overall, it remains low.
Though most subscriptions in the Nordics go to big national brands, up to half of paying news subscribers in Norway have secondary subscriptions, often local or regional, while in Finland, a single publication – Helsingin Sanomat – dominates with almost half the subscribers.
Norway, Sweden and Finland take first, second, and fourth place in number of paying subscribers, with 45, 30, and 20 per cent, respectively. On average, 28 per cent of people in the Nordics pay for news, up 2 percentage points from last year.
Graph 1: Proportion that paid for or accessed paid for online news in the Nordic countries, 2017–2021 (%)
Survey question: Have you paid for online news content, or accessed a paid for online news service in the last year? Base: Total sample in each country.
Source: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 plus previous reports.
Nordics value local news – Norway leads in consumption
The Nordics also have high levels of local and regional subscriptions, with 57 per cent of Norwegian subscribers paying for a digital local outlet, and 37 per cent of Swedish subscribers, and 31 per cent of Finnish subscribers, paying for local digital news.
In Norway, local newspapers are the preferred source of news for politics (71%), crime (73%), coronavirus news (53%), and things to do (46%).
Nordics have high trust in news – Finland leads worldwide
Finland has the highest level of trust in the news (65%, up 9 percentage points) for the third year running.
Some of the big commercial and public service Nordic news brands have been the top beneficiaries of increased reach due to a simultaneous increase of trust in the news. Norwegian VG increased 9 percentage points, Danish TV2 increased 8 percentage points, and MTV News in Finland increased 7 percentage points.
Public service websites have also seen increased usage in the Nordics, with Norwegian NRK News gaining 8 points, Finnish YLE 5 points, and Swedish SVT 3 points. These gains are not reflected in countries with less trusted public broadcasters.
Graph 2: Proportion that trust most of the news most of the time in the Nordic countries, 2019–2021 (%)
Survey question: Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement: “I think you can trust most of the news most of the time” (Graph shows “agrees”/“strongly agrees”). Base: Total sample in each country.
Source: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021.
Print news decreases, while digital models accelerate
Print newspapers declined in part because of encumbered physical distribution due to lockdowns during the pandemic and withdrawal of advertisers.
Newspaper advertising for Finnish news decreased by one-fifth from 2019, and Denmark experienced an 8 per cent decrease in total advertising revenues. Overall, TV news maintained a strong position, and shifts towards digital models accelerated.
Accessing news on a smartphone has increased more rapidly than in recent years, with 73 per cent worldwide; Finland shows an impressive 32 percentage point increase, Denmark 28, Norway 12 and Sweden only 2.
There are also country reports for Finland and Norway, which deeply examine the news consumption in each country:
Uutismedia verkossa 2021 – Suomen maaraportti (scroll to find press releases in English, Finnish and Swedish, plus the full PDF-report in Finnish)
Tampere University, Finland / The Media Industry Research Foundation
University of Bergen, Norway
Important to note about the survey sample: Because this survey deals with news consumption, anyone indicating they had not consumed any news during the past month was filtered out (this category averaged around 3%). The report is based on an online survey, and as such the results will underrepresent the consumption habits of people who are not online (typically older, less affluent, and with limited formal education). In this sense, it is better to think of results as representative of online populations who use news at least once a month. In a country like Norway, this is almost everyone (98%).