Tiktok was the fastest-growing source of news in the UK for the second year in a row, according to Ofcom’s annual news consumption report.
One in ten people aged over 16 (10%) said they used the video app for news in 2023, placing it ahead of BBC Radio 1 (8%) and Channel 5 (8%) for the first time, and on a par with The Guardian (10%).
Use of the Chinese-owned app has surged since 2020 when Ofcom reported that 1% of UK adults used Tiktok for news. In 2022, some 3.9 million UK adults over 16 (7% of the total population) said they used Tiktok as a source of news.
Ofcom’s news consumption survey was carried out through a total of 4,556 interviews, with a mixture of online and face-to-face, taking place between 7 November and 7 December 2022 and 27 February and 3 April 2023.
Facebook, while it remains the most used social media source, continues to decline in popularity. Under a third (30%) of UK adults said they used it for news in 2023, down from 35% in 2019.
The rise in use of social media and apps means that people are using a wider variety of sources for information. According to Ofcom, most people who use Tiktok for news stay up-to-date by following well-known figures (68%) and journalists (64%). The best-ranked news organisation on Tiktok was the BBC, which is followed by 36% of users and was ranked third after well-known figures and journalists.
Facebook was the only social network where a news organisation (the BBC) is the most commonly followed news source - ahead of personalities.
This year, Ofcom also asked people how they used various social networks for news. Local news was popular on Facebook with 59% of those using the Meta-owned platform for news to keep on top of what was happening in their area, while 55% used it for breaking news. Twitter, meanwhile, was mostly seen as a source for breaking news (61%) and political news (45%). Tiktok (55%) and Instagram (53%) were primarily accessed for celebrity news.
News consumption habits of Gen Z highlight weaker direct link with newsbrands
The trend towards accessing news indirectly was most pronounced among younger news consumers. More than four-fifths (83%) of 16 to 24 year-olds and 81% of 25 to 34-year-olds said they got their news from social media, apps and websites (compared to 68% of all adults).
Some 71% of 16 to 24-year-olds cited social media in particular, compared to 47% among adults generally. Just under half (46%) of 16 to 24-year-olds following news said social media was their most important source of news - considerably higher than adults as a whole (17%).
In contrast, 28% of 16 to 24-year-olds said they accessed news directly through either the print or digital offerings of newspaper brands, underlining the findings of previous research by the Reuters Institute for Digital Journalism which found that younger audiences have weaker connections with traditional news outlets.
Turning to individual news sources, BBC One was the only traditional media source to feature among the top five for this age group, cited by 33%. The same share said they used Facebook (33%) while Instagram (44%) was more popular and the most-used source. One in three 16 to 24-year-olds (31%) said they used Twitter (31%) for news while 29% used Tiktok.
One in ten 16 to 24-year-olds said they consumed no news at all, twice the figure for all adults (5%).
Compared to adults more generally, younger people were also more likely to shun traditional news sources such as TV (47% vs 70% or 75% when on-demand services are included), radio (25% vs 40%) and print newspapers (16% vs 26%).
Tiktok single most popular news source among 12 to 15-year-olds
While the BBC’s combined platforms have the highest reach among 12 to 15-year-olds at 39%, Tiktok, which knocked the BBC's TV channels off the top spot last year, is the single most popular news source among younger teens, used by 28% of this age group - an increase of 17 percentage points compared to 2020.
It was followed by Youtube (25%), Instagram (25%) and BBC One and BBC Two (21%), which have all seen drops in popularity compared to 2020.
When it comes to news diet, lighter types of news proved most popular among young teenagers. Almost a quarter (23%) said they were interested in news about sports personalities (23%), 15% in music and 11% in celebrities. Some 8% said they consumed news about "serious things going on in the UK/nations".
As in previous years, just under half (45%) of 12 to 15-year-olds claimed not to be interested in news, with 46% of this group not interested in news putting it down to the fact that the news was too boring.
BBC remains the UK's most popular news organisation
Despite the growth of other sources, the BBC remains the most popular news organisation, with its output across TV, radio, online, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds reaching 73% of people in the UK over 16.
It was followed by ITV (42%) and Facebook and Instagram owner Meta (37%). While the BBC's overall reach fell three percentage points compared to 2022, ITV increased its cross-platform reach by four points to 42% in the year it launched ITVX.
BBC One was the most used single source, accessed by 49% of people.
Print reach steady
While print has declined over the long-term, newspaper use remained broadly steady between 2022 (24%) and 2023 (26%).
The overall reach of newspaper brands, taking into account print, websites and apps, also remained consistent at 39% in 2023 (38% in 2022).
While newspapers have grown their digital offerings, this has been insufficient to compensate for the longer picture of print decline as newspaper brands' combined digital and print reach has fallen from 47% in 2020 and 51% in 2018.
Most popular newspaper brands in the UK in 2023
The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday were once again the UK’s most-read titles across print and digital, reaching 36% of UK adults, followed by The Guardian (26%) and The Sun and Metro (19% each). The Guardian was the most widely read digital title (15%).
Time, which removed its paywall earlier this year, was the most popular magazine among the adults who use magazines for news. Its reach increased from 10% in 2022 to 23% in 2023.
TV’s reach declining but on-demand news services are popular
While TV remained the top news platform overall, its reach continues to decline. Excluding use of on-demand services, TV’s reach for news was 70% this year down from 79% in 2018.
BBC One (71%) was the most-used TV news source, followed by ITV1 (49%) although both have declined in reach since 2018 from 78% and 52% respectively.
Sky News was the most widely-watched non public service broadcaster (33%). Start-up channel GB News reached 6% of UK adults.
Broadcast video on demand services proved popular. BBC iPlayer reached 24% of UK adults for news, while ITVX, ITV’s streaming platform launched in 2022, reached 11% of UK adults for news.
Trust higher for traditional outlets
While traditional news sources have been declining in popularity, mainstream sources remain the most trusted. They were also rated higher for accuracy and quality.
Two-thirds (66%) of people said they trusted the news they read in traditional outlets while 69% said they had faith in news on the TV, compared to 40% for social media.
Almost six in ten people who watch TV news (56%) rated the BBC's televised news as trustworthy, compared to 20% for Sky News and 4% for GB News.
Traditional sources were also rated higher among younger consumers. Some 82% of children aged 12 to 15 said that they considered the news on BBC One and BBC Two as trustworthy all or most of the time, while 77% said the same for ITV1. This compares to 32% of Tiktok users, 38% of Instagram users and 41% of Facebook users aged 12 to 15 who said they trusted the news they saw on the platforms.
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