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  2. Audience Data
May 24, 2023

Trust low, perception of spin and misreporting high, and attention spans dip: News habits survey

The survey found almost half of people feel negative after watching or reading the news.

By Aisha Majid

Almost two-thirds of people say they do not believe everything they read in the news, according to a survey of UK attitudes and preferences concerning the media and trust.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults by news technology company Tickaroo and research agency Opinium found that 60% of respondents were sceptical about some of the stories they read, while 66% were concerned about fake news.

Among those that said they did not trust the news, the most common reason given was that journalists create spin (43%) followed by misreporting (42%).

Trust in news: Almost four in ten do not trust news very much

Almost four in ten people (37%) said they did not trust the news very much, while 6% said they did not trust it all.

Just over half (55%) said they trusted the news a fair amount. Previous surveys have found low levels of trust in news in the UK, with one survey of 24 countries by King's College, London finding that 13% of people in the UK trusted the press with only Egypt ranking lower.

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Lack of positive news stories

The research also sought to uncover what kinds of stories audiences wanted and how the news made them feel. Over half (51%) said news brands only report on problems and issues, with the same percentage also saying news outlets do not report on solutions.

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Asked how the news made them feel, almost half (47%) of people said watching or reading the news made them feel negative with older people aged 55 and above most likely to say this (52%) and young people aged 18 to 34 least likely (36%).

Women were less likely to feel positive after consuming news compared to men (15% vs 23% respectively).

Other research such as the Reuters Institute 2022 Digital News Report has found a perception that the news agenda is too depressing is among the factors leading to news avoidance.

News sites are preferred source of breaking news

Amid concerns that young people are turning away from traditional news providers, the research found that more young people (45%) turn to social media first to find out about big breaking news events, compared to 32% who turn to UK-based news sites such as the BBC.

Among the whole population, however, news sites were the most popular source for breaking news (45%) followed by TV (24%).

Two third of respondents (67%) said it was important to them to receive breaking news updates.

When it comes to how audiences access news, 39% said they access the news via their mobile phones, with 24% saying they used their televisions.

The research also sought to understand audience preferences around article format and length, finding that 21% of readers spent less than two minutes reading a news article, while the average ideal length of a news article had decreased from 368 words to 346 words in the past year. The researchers noted that this pointed towards decreasing attention spans. Just 12% of people said that they read for more than ten minutes on average.

Younger people most often preferred short live news updates (26%) as their news format of choice, while older audiences aged over 55 preferred TV news bulletins (47%).

Among all age groups, most respondents preferred news on politics (54%), followed by sports (33%) and technology (26%).

Among young people, politics was also the most popular type of news, although this was less favoured than among the whole population at 35% and technology (31%).

The survey, which was weighted to be nationally representative, also found that most subscribers to news outlets (45%) are aged 18 to 34 years old. This contradicts research from Yougov and the Reuters Institute which has found that those that pay for news are typically older.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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