Featured Article: More People Follow ‘TikTok News’

21st June 2023

With the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 showing TikTok now being the source of news for 20 per cent of 18–24-year-olds at the expense of news websites and apps, we look at where most people now get their news from and the reasons why.

The Report 

The Reuters Institute report is based on the findings of a survey of more than 93,000 people in 46 countries, including the UK, conducted by YouGov in January and February of this year.

Some Key Findings

Some of the key findings about where people young people and others now get their news from are:

– Interest in news stories has declined, there are now high levels of selective news avoidance (36 per cent) i.e., people actively and regularly avoid news (to avoid bad news).

– Trust in the news has fallen and more than half of us (56 per cent) now worry about being able to distinguish between fake and real news on the Internet.

– Around only a fifth of respondents (22 per cent) now say they prefer to start their news journeys with a news website or app (down 10 percentage points since 2018).

– One fifth of young people get their news from TikTok.

– For news topics TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat users now pay more attention to celebrities and social media influencers than to journalists or media companies.

– Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, is falling in most markets, with online and social consumption not making up the gap.

– Younger people have a weaker connection with news brands’ own websites and apps than before and prefer to access news via side-door routes such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators.

– Although Facebook is still one of the most-used social networks, shifting its focus away from news (and competition) has meant that its influence on journalism and popularity as a news source is declining.

– Whereas on Facebook and Twitter, news media and journalists are still central to the conversation, audiences say they pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities than journalists in networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat (the social networks more popular with young people).

In short, people are moving away from Facebook, news apps and websites, with many young people now preferring to get their news from TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, paying more attention to what influencers and celebrities say about it.

Why? 

The declining engagement with traditional networks, e.g. Facebook and the rise of TikTok and a range of other video-led networks, along with the preference for the views of influencers and celebrities is likely to be the result of the influence of the habits of the youngest generations. This is because they have grown up with social media and as a result, naturally pay more attention to influencers or celebrities than they do to journalists, even for news. This may also explain why many young people prefer to access news via ‘side-door routes’ such as social media, search, or mobile aggregators rather than heading straight for news websites and apps.

As the Reuters Institute director Rasmus Neilsen explains, “Younger generations increasingly eschew direct discovery for all but the most appealing brands” and “They have little interest in many conventional news offers oriented towards older generations’ habits, interests, and values, and instead embrace the more personality-based, participatory, and personalised options offered by social media, often looking beyond legacy platforms to new entrants”. 

Also, the current squeeze on household spending has meant that people have been rethinking how much they can afford to spend on news media.

Facebook’s declining use for news isn’t just because it’s moving away from news but is also down to strong competition from YouTube and youth-focused networks like TikTok.

A general mistrust of news and a lack of confidence about being able to spot fake new could be due to influences like criticism of the news media, which is often driven by politicians and facilitated by social media.

As for declining interest in news and ‘selective avoidance’ of news, these can be attributed to (probably since the pandemic), an abundance of bad news on constant-repeat e.g., the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, thereby causing people to avoid bad news to protect their own wellbeing and mental health.

Podcasts 

As highlighted in Reuters Report, podcasts are still popular, and their usage has grown by one-third since 2018. Although they are a source of news, the news podcasts compete for attention with lifestyle and specialist shows (some of which also deal with news), and the listeners tend to be richer, better educated, and younger.

Where Do People Get Their News From? 

According to YouGov figures, although most UK people now get their news from the national TV news (44 per cent) and news websites (40 per cent but declining), social media is where just over a quarter (26 per cent) of people get their news). An Ofcom report from 2022 confirms that younger age groups are more likely to use the internet and social media for news, whereas their older counterparts favour print, radio, and TV. The report shows that the reach of print/online newspapers has seen a large decrease from 2020 i.e. 47 per cent to 2022 (38 per cent), and the report states that social media is overtaking traditional channels for news among teens, e.g. with TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube being their top three most used sources for news.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The shifting landscape of news consumption highlighted in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023 has significant implications for various stakeholders in the business world. Publishers, traditional media outlets, social media platforms, and advertisers all need to adapt to the changing preferences and behaviours of news consumers, particularly among younger generations.

For publishers and traditional media, the report emphasises the decline in interest and trust in news stories, as well as the decreasing preference for news websites and apps. This highlights the need for innovative approaches to news delivery and engagement to capture the attention of younger audiences. Investing in video-led networks, exploring personalised and participatory options, and leveraging social media platforms can help reach a broader audience.

Social media platforms, while still influential, face challenges in the evolving news landscape. The decline of Facebook as a news source, primarily driven by competition from platforms like TikTok and YouTube, indicates the importance of diversifying content offerings and adapting to changing user preferences. Platforms must strike a balance between user-generated content and news media to remain relevant and trustworthy sources of information.

Advertisers need to reassess their strategies and platforms for reaching their target audiences. With young people paying more attention to influencers and celebrities on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, there is an opportunity to collaborate with these popular figures to promote their products or services. Advertisers should also consider leveraging podcasts, which have seen growth and appeal to a more affluent, educated, and younger demographic.

Overall, the report highlights the need for businesses to stay informed about the changing news consumption habits and preferences of their target audiences. Adapting to the rise of video-led networks, social media influencers, and personalised content can help companies stay relevant and effectively engage with consumers. By embracing new platforms and approaches, businesses can navigate the evolving news landscape and leverage these changes to their advantage.