Cream and Sugar in Your Coffee, But No Ads in Your News? Mobile Users Resist That Mix

Digital tablet showing news

Some things are good — like coffee, like news — but whereas few think adding cream and sugar to coffee is bad, too many mobile phone users believe mixing ads and news is anathema.

The insight — not the coffee one, but the news one — comes from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) whose recent “Digital News Report” confirms that publishers are struggling to make money from folks who don’t like the mix.

“The report finds that many news brands are struggling to cut through on mobile with access to content increasingly mediated by third-parties such as Facebook, Apple, and Google,” according to

“These problems are compounded by the difficulty of selling effective advertising space on small screens, and the increasing use of ad-blocker technology,” PHYS explained. “More widely, news providers have seen little increase in the number of people who are willing to pay for their journalism while there is evidence of audience resistance to so-called sponsored content – seen as a possible cure to the ailing ad business in digital news.”

In other words, there’s still no good business model for news delivered in a digital world.

“Our research documents that most people like news and use news, but they don’t want to pay for it, don’t want to see advertising around it, and don’t want to see it mixed up with sponsored content,” said Dr. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of Research at the RISJ. “This means sustainable business models remain elusive even for those who succeed in building an audience.”

It’s not that smartphone owners aren’t accessing news. That access has surged in all countries, growing 31 percent to 44 percent in the U.S. alone.

But the report documents that smartphone news is currently dominated by a handful of top brands, while other outlets struggle to reach a wider audience.

“It is getting harder and harder for news brands to earn a place on the home screen,” explained the report’s lead author Nic Newman. “The reality is that only the most loyal users are downloading and using apps. For others social media, messaging apps, email and mobile notifications are becoming an increasingly important route to news.”