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Smartphones reign supreme for news consumers in Latin America, according to Reuters Institute

Online news has become the main source of news in Latin America and most of the world. As the internet and the communications platforms within it diversify, so are the ways that consumers access that content.

The 2018 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) surveyed four Latin American countries and found that in each case, a majority of respondents are accessing their news from their smartphones.

Seventy-one percent of respondents are accessing news from smartphones in Argentina, 81 percent in Chile and 74 percent in Mexico. In Brazil, the percentage of smartphone users (72%)  is tied with those getting news from their computers, but the latter number is in decline.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico are the four Latin American countries out of a total 37 surveyed in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018. About 2,000 people were surveyed in each country in the region. Additionally, the Institute conducted focus groups in Brazil in which it spoke with Facebook and WhatsApp users about news consumption on the social media platforms, according to David A. L. Levy, RISJ director.

In each Latin American country, a majority of respondents are using Facebook as the top social media and messaging platform for news. However, that percentage also fell in each country compared with the previous year. In all countries but Mexico, WhatsApp ranked second (YouTube was second in Mexico and WhatsApp was third).

Yet, taking into account all countries globally, the report found that media companies are moving away from distributed content on social media and aggregators in favor of higher quality content and reader payment.

“And yet these changes are fragile, unevenly distributed and come on top of many years of digital disruption, which has undermined confidence of both publishers and consumers,” the report stated.

In terms of trust in news overall, Brazil fared best among the Latin American countries (59%) and had the third highest rank of all 37 countries surveyed. Argentina had the lowest percentage in the region (41%).

While fake news ahead of elections is a big issue in Brazil and Mexico, the phenomenon was not widespread in Chile during the country’s 2017 presidential elections and has not been a big topic of discussion among the public, according to Francisco Javier Fernández Medina, author of the report’s Chile overview.

More information not included in the report, as well as methodology information, is available at Detailed information regarding each Latin American country is outlined below.

[Ed. note: The Institute reported that its samples in Brazil and Mexico were more representative of urban rather than national populations.]


In the country overview, Eugenia Mitchelstein and Pablo Boczkowski, co-directors of the Center for the Study of Media and Society, noted concentration in Argentina’s private media system – mainly by Grupo Clarín – as well as a distrust of media and politicians, despite high levels of news consumption.

  • The internet (89%) and television (76%) dominate as news sources in Argentina. For TV, radio and print, the most accessed source is TN (Todo Noticias). Online, the most accessed source is news site Infobae.
  • 71% access news on their smartphones.
  • The country ranked low in terms of trust in news overall (41%), ranking 23rd out of all 37 countries polled.
  • Facebook is the top brand for social media and messaging (60%), followed by WhatsApp (37%) and YouTube (27%).
  • Just 12 percent pay for online news and 28 percent use an ad-blocker.
  • Mitchelstein and Boczkowski noted additional recent key developments in the country’s media:
    • The main newspapers and online sites – Clarín, La Nación and Infobae – have launched paywalls.
    • Grupo Clarín merged with telecommunications company Telecom to comprise more than half of the market for broadband internet connections. The merger “created the first company allowed to offer ‘quadruple play’ (landline telephony, mobile telephony, cable and online services),” the authors wrote.


Rodrigo Carro, financial journalist and former Reuters Institute Journalist Fellow, highlighted the strength of Brazil’s commercial broadcasters and the attempts for newspapers to adapt to new business models, including reducing the frequency of publication and establishing online paywalls. He also noted, “Brazilians are some of the most enthusiastic users of social networks and messaging apps in the world.”

  • Most respondents get their news online (90%) and via television (75%). For TV, radio and print, as well as online, Globo dominates.
  • 48% of respondents use WhatsApp for news.
  • Weekly use of social media for news declined in Brazil starting in 2016. According to the study, this relates to a drop in the percentage of respondents using Facebook (52%) as users turn to Instagram (16%) and WhatsApp (48%) and increasingly use their smartphones for news (72%). Carro noted that “Brazil has the second largest user base on Instagram, with 50 million monthly active users.”
  • A high 85 percent said they were concerned about what is real and fake on the internet.
  • Trust in news overall is at 59%, but just 32% trust news in social media.
  • 22% pay for online news and 23% use an ad-blocker.
  • Additional recent developments noted by Carro:
    • “In the past three years, the number of print copies sold fell by 41.4% whilst digital circulation rose 5.8% (IVC Brasil),” Carro wrote.
    • To prepare for the October presidential elections, the Supreme Electoral Court and the Brazilian federal police are looking at ways to defeat “fake news”


Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism 2018

Francisco Javier Fernández Medina of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile emphasized big changes in television, particularly the sale of Canal 13 to Andrónico Luksic, furthering the “commercialization of TV news, bringing Chile closer in line with other Latin American countries.” He also noted that publishers are diversifying by acquiring or creating other media types in order to combat decreasing advertising revenue.

  • Most respondents access news online (89%), followed by television (75%).
  • 81% use smartphones to get their news.
  • Trust in news overall (53%) and news on social media (40%) is relatively high.
  • Ranked top (43%) out of all 37 countries in terms of respondents preferring to access news via social media.
  • For news, 68% use Facebook, 38% use WhatsApp and 27% use YouTube
  • Only 9% pay for online news and 24% use an ad-blocker.
  • Additional developments highlighted by Fernández Medina:
    • Businessman Andrónico Luksic bought Universidad Católica de Chile’s share of Canal 13, ending the “university television” model in the country that was “established almost 60 years ago when the government gave television activity to four universities.”


María Elena Gutiérrez Rentería of Universidad Panamericana emphasized the popularity of television in Mexico and the growth of digital native news sources. She also called attention to the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico, which is the deadliest country for journalists in the western hemisphere.

  • 90% of respondents get news online, followed by just 62% via TV.
  • Ranked first (13%) in terms of respondents preferring to received news through mobile alerts.
  • Trust in news overall (49%) and trust in news on social (40%) is relatively high.
  • For news, 61% use Facebook, 37% use YouTube and 35% use WhatsApp.
  • 17% pay for online news and 26% use an ad-blocker.
  • Additional developments highlighted by Gutiérrez Rentería include:
    • Mass media companies TV Azteca and Televisa “are generally considered to be the brands with the highest level of political, economic and social influence in the country,” the researcher noted. However, digital news site Aristegui Noticias is the top online brand, along with El Universal online, for the second year.
    • Fake news is also a problem in Mexico leading up to the July 1 elections and organizations and media are fighting back with fact-checking initiatives, like Verificado2018.


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