Nepal’s interface with information


A new survey of media trends in Nepal conducted nationwide earlier this year shows that the use of social media networks has left radio, tv and the print press trailing further behind. But even though they interact with and share social media content, most citizens have little trust in it.

Sharecast Initiative Nepal conducted the survey among 5,582 respondents above 18 years in face-to-face interviews. They were selected from 351 local wards, rural municipalities, municipalities, sub-metropolitan cities and metropolitan city proportional to the population size from 77 districts. The sampling of the survey is based on the 2021 census results.

The 2022 results are useful for tracking media consumption trends by comparing them to previous surveys and seeing the changing popularity patterns among various groups.

Most dramatic changes have been in the decline in the audience for national and international news on radio, television and print in just two years. Compared to 2020, the percentage of respondents saying they watched television news fell from 47% to 31%. Newspaper and magazine readership for national news, already small, decreased further from 8% to 4%.

Radio, which was once the main source of local news for Nepalis, especially in rural areas, has now fallen from 44% to 26%.

Users seem to have migrated en masse to the internet. When asked about which medium they relied on for local news and information, respondents saying YouTube increased from 4% to 15% in two years – signifying the proliferation of channels on that platform that have usually sensationalised news and current affairs content.

Read also: Nepal’s new digital landscape, Sonia Awale

The percentage of respondents saying they got their information from Facebook rose from 21% to 41%, although the caveat here is that they may be clicking on links to the Facebook accounts of the mainstream media.

Despite this surge in users of social networking sites, there appears to be a trust deficit. Radio, tv and print media still top the ranking for credibility, with only 3% of respondents saying they trust content on social media.

Interestingly, trust in online portals is also a low 8%.

In answer to another survey question, most respondents who said they do not read print media (85%) said they did not read newspapers and magazines because they were not available in the area or delivered at home. Other reasons for not reading were: stale content, boring, or they have other sources of news.

On the other hand, while nationwide use of Twitter is very low, the number of print media readers who say they are also on Twitter is much higher (42%) than on Facebook (20%) or YouTube (20%).

Left to their own devices

The changing pattern of consumption of media content is determined by access to new information technology. Just as radio surged with Nepal’s rural radio revolution in the 1990s, and television took audiences away from print, the legacy media are now all in the same boat – competing with the internet for eyeballs and, therefore, revenue.

Nepal’s mobile penetration rate is now reaching saturation, with 90% of individuals above 18 years in the survey saying they owned a hand phone. Of these, 67% were smartphones and can access data internet. Although this proportion has gone up sharply since previous Sharecast surveys, it shows there is still potential for growth if 4G access spreads and mobile data package costs come down.

Read also: Nepalis are drifting to digital media, Madhu Acharya and Bhumiraj Chapagain


An increasingly online nation

More than one-third of respondents above 18 years in a nationwide survey conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal said they do not have access to the internet.

When asked why they are not using the internet, 62% of the respondents said it was because they did not own a device, and 29% lacked the confidence or skill to go online. Of the other responses, 19% said they feel too old to learn, 14% had neither the interest nor the need of the internet, and 7% were too busy doing other things. 7% said that although they would have liked to have access to the internet, there is no connectivity where they are.

These results show that there are still a substantial number of adult Nepalis who are not online (6.4 million), and most of them do not own a device. Although, in answer to another survey question, nearly 90% of adult Nepalis say they have mobile phones (and 67% of them are smartphones), showing that internet penetration in Nepal is lagging behind phone use and has not yet reached saturation.

Disaggregating data for internet use, Gandaki Province appears to have the widest internet use, with only half the respondents (46%) saying they did not have online access because they do not have a device. However, 50% of them said they were not using the internet because they did not have the skill — much higher than other provinces.

Surprisingly, only 12% of respondents in Karnali Province said they did not have the confidence to use the internet. Overall, few respondents without access to the internet said they were interested in using it.

Read also: Nepal’s changing media landscape, Sharecast Initiative

More than 5,500 respondents took part in the nationwide survey and they were asked if their children between 6-12 years used the internet. Nearly half (47%) said their children did, 39% said they did not, and 13% did not have children in that age group.

Again, the proportion of children with access to the internet is highest in Gandaki (69%). Karnali and Madhes trailed in children not using the net (66%) and (61%), respectively. Despite Kathmandu Valley being situated in Bagmati Province, it is behind Gandaki and Province 1 in internet use among adults and children.

The 62.5% of respondents who have access to the internet were asked unprompted which apps they used the most. Facebook is still scoring highest with 91%, with YouTube (89%) and TikTok (56%). Buried in the long tail is Twitter with only 2% — surprising given how Twitter seems to shape the national discourse on everything from elections to gender-based violence —proving that Twitter users are from the more influential class of urban-based movers and shakers.

Comparing the responses with results from the 2020 survey, Sharecast Initiative found a dramatic increase in the number of TikTok and YouTube users. These results show that social networking platforms are increasingly displacing the mainstream press where people have access to information and entertainment.

As expected, TikTok is most popular among the young, its usage dipping with the older population. Twitter has a slightly larger following among the 16-24 age group (8%) but trails far behind other social networking platforms. But what it seems to lack in popularity, it more than makes up for its socio-economic demographics.

Read also: Mobile Nepal is hooked on YouTube, Kunda Dixit

A sample of the estimated 12.2 million Nepalis who have access to the internet was asked if they regularly visited online news portals. Only 30% said yes (3.7 million). This is a surprisingly low result, which seems

to indicate that most internet use could be for entertainment or family engagement.

Disaggregating this data by province shows that Bagmati has the highest proportion of internet users accessing news portals, with Karnali and Province 1 following close behind. Madhes Province has the lowest number (13%) accessing digital news sites.

Despite having the highest internet use, Gandaki Province has the lowest proportion of respondents saying they accessed news portals which can only mean they use the internet for other purposes than as a source of news and information.

The 30% of respondents who said they visited online news portals were asked what made them access those sites. Nearly half (48%) said they received push notifications to do so, while others just found the sites by browsing portals. But a majority (57%) clicked on links shared by friends on social media to visit news portals.

The 62.5% of respondents who said they use the internet were asked if they thought the spread of disinformation was a problem in Nepal. More than 90% of them partially or fully agreed it was an issue. Only 7% of respondents think it is not a problem. Bagmati Province where Kathmandu Valley is located has the highest proportion (27%) of respondents who agreed fully that disinformation and misinformation was a problem.

This would tally with previous surveys that indicate that although there is heavy use of social media platforms, the credibility of information they contain is considered low among most Nepalis.

Read also: Digital path to social buffers in Nepal, Ashraya Dixit

Nepal Media Survey 2022 covers consumption patterns of radio, tv, newspapers and internet platforms. Nepal Media Survey Report available from [email protected]

Kunda Dixit


Kunda Dixit is the former editor and publisher of Nepali Times. He is the author of 'Dateline Earth: Journalism As If the Planet Mattered' and 'A People War' trilogy of the Nepal conflict. He has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University and is Visiting Faculty at New York University (Abu Dhabi Campus).