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Two-thirds of Brits follow local news, mostly via social media and TV

Ofcom's survey suggests Northern Ireland follows local news more than anywhere else in the UK.

By Bron Maher

Almost two-thirds (65%) of UK adults follow local news in their area – and social media is the most common way they do so, according to the latest data from Ofcom.

The regulator’s survey of nearly 2,800 UK adults showed that almost as many people follow local news via television as through the tech platforms.

The research reveals Northern Ireland as the part of the UK that pays the most attention to local goings-on – and Scotland the least. 

The Local Media Survey, conducted by Yonder in late February and early March last year, looked at what local media Brits use and what they use it for.

Its results show 92% of people in the UK use local news or information in some form for purposes that include traffic updates, council activity and sport.

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Weather is the most-followed type of local information in the country, with 70% of the 2,778 respondents saying they sought it out via any medium.

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Local news and current affairs was the second most commonly followed kind of information, with 65% of people saying they paid attention to it. The average number of sources respondents used for their local news was 1.83.

Among the 2,548 respondents who said they seek out local news and information sources, 54% said they did so through social media. Only TV (53%) and word of mouth (50%) were similarly popular.

The websites of broadcasters were the next most common source of local information (35%), followed by radio (34%) and the websites or apps associated with local newspapers (32%).

The print editions of local papers were used by 22% of respondents - just behind the proportion using hyperlocal messaging groups or apps such as Whatsapp or Nextdoor. Nearly 90% of respondents said they received local news via any online source.

Breaking it down by age, 49% of 16 to 24 year-olds reported following local news compared to 73% among over-55s.

Asked to think specifically about the sources they used for local news in the prior month, 38% of respondents said “local groups or accounts on social media”.

The regional news bulletin on BBC One and the BBC News website and app were the next most common sources, with 35% of people saying they used them.

This varied by age group, although the BBC News website and app was the most popular source of local news for both 16 to 24 year-olds and 45 to 54 year-olds, with 46% of both cohorts reporting using them.

Those aged between 25 and 34 were, however, much less likely (23%) than other cohorts to use the website or app of a local newspaper and much more likely to get their local information from news aggregators (25%) or video-sharing platforms like Youtube (19%).

Only 7% of all those aged above 45 said they use video-sharing platforms for local news and information. Media favoured by older groups included hyperlocal messaging groups and apps and email newsletters.

Disaggregating by nation, the Ofcom research indicates that Northern Ireland pays more attention to local news than any other part of the United Kingdom, with 81% of respondents saying it's something they follow.

Wales (67%) pays the second most attention to local news, England (64%) the third and, despite its comparatively healthy national news industry, Scotland the least (60%). Scots were however the second most attentive nation to local sport and documentaries about their local area.

Just over one in ten (12%) of respondents said they use a local free newspaper for news and information and 11% a local paid newspaper. Fewer, 10%, said they use a local free magazine, and 2% said they use a local paid magazine.

There were also national differences among those who said they use a print product in some form for local news. More than two-thirds of print product users in Northern Ireland got their local news from a paid newspaper, and the same was true of more than half the Welsh and Scottish print users.

In England, however, print readers were more likely to read a free newspaper (47%) or free magazine (42%) than a paid local paper (37%).

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.
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