News executives have long wed themselves to the narrative that there is a lack of U.S. audience appetite for international news. But is that true?
At Global Press, our international news organization that trains and employs local women journalists in some of the world’s least covered places, we’ve observed the opposite trend for years now. Founded in 2006, Global Press never sought to directly serve a U.S. audience. But over the years, that audience has grown, and in doing so forced us to take steps to better understand who these readers were and why they were flocking to these stories.
Today, we’re pleased to release a new report, “Unlocking U.S. Audience Demand for International News,” which reveals a large, untapped reservoir of demand among U.S. audiences for higher-quality international journalism. Along with our partners, Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, an independent public opinion research firm, and Wonder: Strategies for Good, experts in analyzing public opinion research, our study aims to determine what kind of international news stories U.S.-based audiences are most interested in consuming.
Our research sought to answer an important and under-researched set of questions: Is it that people don’t care about the world? Or is it perhaps possible that people are fatigued by the disaster narratives that the media forces upon them? Are they disinterested or do they just lack better options?
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest the latter. Readers are hungry for stories and information that allow them to see the world differently. In August 2022, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey revealed that what news consumers in the U.S. ages 16 to 40 most want from the news is “diverse points of view and to help people understand communities and people unlike their own.” Similarly, according to a Reuters Institute survey conducted in 2022, international news ranked as the second most interesting news topic behind local news.
In our research study, U.S.-based respondents who identify as regular news readers, were presented with a myriad of options for what high-quality international journalism can look like and evaluated the latent demand of these readers for such journalism. The methodology included a large-scale nationwide survey as well as a curated set of in-depth interviews and a multiday asynchronous focus group.
The results were remarkable. Our study established that there is a deep reservoir of untapped demand from readers in the United States, across a wide range of demographics, for international journalism that is local, precise, and representative. It also solved the puzzle of why U.S.-based audiences do not proactively seek out such journalism today.
These findings present a new way forward for the media industry—and just in time. The end of the pandemic represents an unprecedented opportunity for a readjustment of priorities. This is the perfect time to embark on a new model of international journalism. And there are concrete action steps that both newsrooms and media funders can take to ensure we’re doing everything we can to provide U.S.-based audiences with the access to information they need to better understand the world and their places in it.