A recently published Reuters Institute study explored how digital publishers in the Global South approach social media platforms. The Global South is a term used to describe a grouping of countries that are understood to be less economically developed. 

The sample size of the study looked at 11 publishers in low- to middle-income countries including South Africa’s Daily Maverick and The Outlier, Nigeria’s Stears Business as well as India’s Scroll and Malaysia’s Magdalene to name a few. 

The study looked at how these publishers were using platforms by large companies such as Meta and Google in addition to fast-growing ones such as TikTok and Telegram.

These were the results of the finds:

  • Platforms were found to be an integral and inescapable part of the digital media landscape in large part due to their popularity with users. Respondents said that their audiences were found on social platforms and so they had to find ways to engage with them and distribute content to them.
  • Large companies such as Meta and Google are seen for what they are: big, for-profit corporates mostly headquartered in the United States and catering to those publications that contribute towards the bottom line. One respondent said that it was harder for smaller newsrooms to get support from the likes of Meta and Google.
  • Interviewees felt that these companies were not transparent and dependable in their operations, in some instances implementing crucial changes with little to no notice.
  • News organisations were seen as less important to platforms in the increasingly competitive content where personalities and influencers have seemingly been prioritised.
  • Respondents cited the frustration of being in a region where there was no direct contact and support was only through online self-service portals. Although some regions in the Global South have been touted as ‘the future’, publishers felt there was scant evidence of that.

The report noted: “This leaves digital publishers in a position where they clearly see platforms as offering a range of opportunities, but also accompanying risks, and with a clear recognition that even successful, relatively big, digital publishers are tiny compared even to smaller platforms such as Twitter (let alone larger ones). When engaging with them, the relationship is profoundly asymmetrical.”

This is a summary of the report, to read it in full, click here.



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