View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Report finds Gen Z more likely to fact-check information – and believe Covid conspiracies

The research found Gen Z treat social media sceptically – but nonetheless believe more Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

By Bron Maher

A new report has found Gen Z are much more likely than older consumers to fact-check their information – but are nonetheless more susceptible to Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

The report, produced by social-first publisher The News Movement and consultancy Oliver Wyman, urges news publishers to invest in personalisation and creating more entertaining, informative content.

The report is the culmination of a two-year research project into what businesses should know about consumers aged between 18 and 25.

The research reaffirms the already widely understood notion that young consumers get much of their news from social media. But it also makes clear the extent to which they do not trust that information.

The report said: “For news Gen Zers are 2.7 times more likely to tap social media than broadcast news, and while they might trust traditional news sources, less than a third use digital or print newspapers and magazines for information in the first place.”

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.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

While 57% of Gen Z respondents to the research said they use social media as one of their most common sources of information, they also ranked it as their least trusted source. Radio was the most trusted, followed by print news, podcasts, the internet in general and YouTube.

Content from our partners
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it
Impress: Regulation, arbitration and complaints resolution
Papermule: Workflow automation for publishers

However, the report said: “60% of Gen Zers worry that short articles or videos… do not provide the full story. And over 50% feel more susceptible to misinformation on social media than on traditional news sources.”

Because they favour personalised content, 50% of the research’s Gen Z respondents said they were worried their social media content might be too biased. Less than half said they felt informed about the news, “compared with nearly 70% of other generations”.

Being conscious of this, respondents reported doing their own fact-checking: the report found that Gen Z is “nearly twice as likely as older generations to fact-check their news, and nearly 60% say they’ve developed techniques to spot unreliable or fake news”.

However, this appears to clash with another of the report’s findings: “Gen Zers who say they fact-check their news were 2.5 times more likely than other generations to generally agree with the idea that Covid-19 was a hoax promoted by the government.” Some 77% of Gen Z respondents who said they fact-check their news reported believing “at least one Covid-19 related conspiracy theory”.

The report’s authors speculated that what the respondents described as "fact-checking" may be more of a sniff test than actual verification: “While [Gen Z] might use traditional sources to verify the information from bigger news sources, they are often relying on ‘social proof’ methods to quickly distinguish faulty information on social media.

“By using comments, discussion, tone of voice and popularity as indicators of whether they are looking at the ‘truth’, Gen Zers are often allowing intuition to drive fact-checking.”

The authors encouraged news providers to incorporate links into their social-first content to make it as easy as possible to check information, citing Snap’s dynamic stories feature as a successful example of established news outlets catering to young audiences.

How news publishers can reach Gen Z

The report had some key takeaways for news businesses hoping to reach Gen Z.

To get in front of younger consumers, the authors said “businesses must engage with this demographic on its preferred platforms, using content that is both informative and entertaining”.

For news in particular, they said: “Gen Zers like the convenience, immediate access and diverse viewpoints available on social media.”

Gen Z respondents said it was twice as important to them that their media content was created specifically for their age cohort than it was that it had an honest tone or style.

The authors recommended: “To reach this generation, news organisations and companies should create visually and sonically pleasing content dripping with (authentic) personality.”

Similarly, companies should hire “niche creators who are highly educated in their topic and arm them with quality information that can be shared in digestible fashion”.

[Read more: How do you sell news to Gen Z? Write about social justice, don’t insult them and stop saying ‘newspaper’]

Topics in this article : , ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network