News in America: Public Good or Private Enterprise?
A robust press is vital to a healthy democracy. But newsrooms need resources to create reliable news that is accessible and free from influence.
Since 2017, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have studied public opinion on the news media’s role in American democracy, with a focus on Americans’ expectations and evaluations of the news in delivering on its civic function of informing the public.
In this report, Gallup and Knight turned their focus to American views on how the news should be sustained. The research underscores the urgency of developing revenue models that will support trustworthy journalism today.
The top findings include:
- Most Americans believe news organizations prioritize their own business needs – over serving the public interest: More than three in four say news organizations are first and foremost motivated by their own financial interests, while just 12% of Americans say news outlets act as civic institutions first.
- Despite Americans’ emphasis on the media’s commercial nature, seven in 10 Americans say they have never paid for news. In addition, only 17% of Americans said they would pay to access news in the future.
- More than half (52%) believe advertising should be a news organization’s largest revenue source, even though digital ad revenue fails to cover the losses many news organizations are seeing from other revenue streams.
- Americans, particularly Gen Z and millennials, do show an openness to public funding and reliance on private donations as a way to support the news. More than half of Americans are open to government funding and private donations for news organizations to ensure the news is free for everyone, under certain conditions.
- Events and newsletters could be a promising revenue source: 35% of Americans saying it is reasonable for news organizations to charge people for in-person events and an additional 20% saying “it depends.” Twenty-seven percent say it’s reasonable to charge for newsletters, and 23% for exclusive content.