The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2024 shows how news consumers in South Africa are shifting their news consumption habits and where they get their news from for instance, TikTok is becoming more popular while Facebook as a source for news is dwindling. 

The report is published annually and offers insights from 47 markets on news consumption and media trends. It looks at the trust in news, what users are looking for, and how new technologies such as artificial intelligence and social media platforms are being used in the news space.

Resource constraints were earmarked as a major concern for South African news media in 2024. Independent Media and Arena Holdings announced substantial staff retrenchments with Independent Media aiming to cut 40% of its workforce. The closures of Pretoria News and Weekend Post reflect the broader trend of declining print media, while the SABC hobbles with over R1.3 billion in debt.

Despite these challenges, the report shows that trust in media has remained steady at 57%, and some news organisations are seeing growth in digital subscriptions. News24, for instance, has surpassed 100 000 subscribers, becoming Africa’s largest news website by paid subscriptions, while the Daily Maverick has grown its membership to 27 500. 

Generative AI presents both opportunities and challenges in newsrooms: Daily Maverick for example is leveraging AI to create concise summaries of their articles, however, the report shows that while AI can enhance news production efficiency, there are still concerns about algorithmic bias and journalists should be cautious. TikTok and other video-based platforms for news are becoming more popular while Facebook is losing its shine as a platform for news.  

Concern about misinformation among South African news consumers has grown to 81% – higher than the global average. It’s being attributed to squabbles between newsrooms and the decreased interest in politics. 

The report also shows that women journalists are still being harassed both online and offline. In the report, the South African National Editors’ Forum said they were ‘horrified’ by the growing trends, which they said were aimed at stopping journalists from reporting on important stories.

In his summary about South Africa, journalist Chris Roper said “South African media appears to be on a cusp. Resources are strained, and business models under huge pressure, but at the same time consumers seem inclined to both trust reputable news sources and also be attuned, as active participants in the news ecosystem, to the potential for mis- and disinformation.”