More Australians are paying to get their news, reading print journalism, and connecting with their local outlets, despite fatigue from rolling pandemic and political coverage, according to a new study.
The University of Canberra's Digital News Report shows 18 per cent of Australians pay for their online news, slightly higher than the global average of 17 per cent.
For the first time since 2016, consumption of print journalism has increased to 22 per cent, particularly among women and Gen Y readers.
The weekly reach of local newspapers is up to 14 per cent, with a quarter reading print editions. Only three per cent of regional audiences access news online.
Trust in news has fallen by two percentage points since last year to 41 per cent, though high levels of trust remain for public broadcasters and regional newspapers.
James Joyce, executive editor of regional publisher Australian Community Media, said there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of local journalism.
"Your favourite local newspaper is, and has always been, worth far more than the paper it's printed on," Mr Joyce said in the report.
"The true value of a local newspaper is in the news."
The survey shows more than two-thirds of the 2038 respondents actively avoid news, with many saying they have been worn out by coverage of COVID-19 and politics, and it negatively affects their moods.
"The bald figures show that community news and features - local people doing interesting things - easily outweigh worthy analyses unless there's an election or grand final in the offing," Canberra's Region Media group editor Genevieve Jacobs said.
One in five people say they do not pay attention to climate change news, and only a third are interested in environment stories.
Almost half continue to seek out news due to a sense of duty to stay informed, rather than for fun or entertainment.
Audiences are turning away from social media as their main source of news, and a majority of consumers want journalists to avoid expressing their own views about current affairs online.