New Reuters Institute research sheds light on what we can learn from how Global South digital publishers use platforms

Newly-released research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals learnings from how digital publishers in the Global South approach digital platforms.

The report–Born in the Fire: What We Can Learn from How Digital Publishers in the Global South Approach Platforms–is based on interviews with a strategic sample of 11 publishers in eight low- and middle-income countries.

Those platforms focussed on range from big ones such as Google and Meta; rapidly growing ones, including TikTok; and smaller ones such as Twitter and Telegram.

The publishers’ approaches were analysed in terms of how they viewed platforms (‘platform realism’), how they approached them in their day-to-day work (‘platform bricolage’), and key aspects of their overall approach (‘platform pragmatism’).

Key findings include that interviewees generally see platform companies through the lens of platform realism, based on five shared beliefs, with platforms generally seen as:

  • integral and inescapable parts of the digital media environment
  • self-interested, powerful for-profit actors
  • amorphous, ever-changing, and opaque in their operations
  • in most cases not particularly interested in news (compared to other content)
  • less engaged in smaller and/or poorer markets far from their corporate headquarters.

Other findings include that - beyond frequent use of search engines, social media, and other platforms in reporting - the main ways the digital publishers interviewed used platforms include:

  • distribution
  • marketing
  • monetisation
  • back-end operations including analytics, and
  • audience engagement and community building.

The research also found that–while platforms compete with publishers for attention, advertising, and consumer spending–publishers also use platforms for their own purposes.

The Institute hopes that the findings of the report–authored by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Federica Cherubini–will be useful as an inspiration for publishers elsewhere.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is dedicated to exploring the future of journalism worldwide.