Youth news consumption trends from the Digital News Report 2022

Youth news consumption trends from the Digital News Report 2022

youth news survey

Youth news readership patterns are not only different from those of their elders but “more different than they were in the past”, a global survey has revealed.

This year’s Reuters Digital News Report reveals clashing patterns among the elusive younger demographic.

Survey authors conclude there may be no “one-size-fits-all approach or medium” for newsrooms seeking to appeal to younger consumers.

In the UK in particular, Tiktok continues to grow quickly and Facebook to decline – but Mark Zuckerberg’s network remains the bigger of the two, even among young audiences.

In line with that trend the youngest consumers are more likely to get their news from videos – but text-based news remains more popular still.

And the proportion of under-25s getting their news from social media is relatively comparable to the proportion getting it directly from publishers.

The other major pattern to appear among the young is the substantial proportion of them avoiding news altogether. Avoidance is more pronounced among the 25-34 year-old group than the very youngest cohort.

The report, carried out by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, is based on questionnaires sent out by Yougov in January and February 2022. In each of the 46 countries researched, the authors surveyed approximately 2,000 people intended to be representative of that market’s online population.

According to the report, Tiktok reaches 40% of 18-24s globally, with 15% of that demographic using the platform for news. Usage is “much higher in parts of Latin America, Asia and Africa than it is in the United States or Northern Europe”.

In the UK, 32% of 18-24 year-olds reported using Tiktok “for any purpose” in the week preceding their survey response. The video network still lagged behind the previously-dominant Facebook, which at 51% use looks set to soon become a minority pursuit among under-25s.

Facebook’s sister networks in Meta’s stable, Instagram and Whatsapp, remained roughly stable at 68% and 62%, respectively.

In 2015, the report had found that less than a quarter of 18-24 year-olds in 12 selected markets (the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Brazil and Japan) had social media as their self-described “main source of news”, versus more than a third who said they mostly got their news from dedicated websites and apps.

In 2022, the proportion mainly getting news from sites and apps had dipped somewhat to 34%. In contrast, the proportion going to social media for their news stood at 39%, having been rising consistently in the interim.

Among UK 18-24s, the most popular social network for news was Twitter, which just under a quarter of respondents said they had used for news in the prior week. Next most popular was Instagram, then Facebook, then Youtube. Tiktok, Whatsapp and Snapchat came joint last.

The Reuters Institute said: “Qualitative interviews reveal that [younger audiences] are drawn to the informal, entertaining style of visual media (and particularly online video) platforms – describing it as more personalised and diverse than TV, as a resource for rapidly changing events such as the Russia–Ukraine conflict, and as a venue for niche interests, from pop culture to travel to health and well-being.”

The research indicates that the younger you are, the more likely you are to mostly get news by video - but text still reigns supreme. 

Under-35s said they prefer to mostly read (58%) rather than mostly watch (15%) their news. The institute said its qualitative surveys found this was particularly true “when looking for live updates and summaries or when keeping up with what is happening on a ‘need to know’ basis”.

Complicating the picture for news publishers, a mix of text and video, or even audio, is also popular.

“Some say they seek out a mix of text and video content to better understand information. Others, particularly in Asia-Pacific and Latin American markets, are drawn to audio-based formats like podcasts that allow users to multitask while they listen.

"There is not a one-size-fits-all approach or medium through which newsrooms can attract younger audiences.”

Perhaps more problematic is the growing group that simply eschews news altogether: “Across all markets, around four in ten under-35s often or sometimes avoid the news now, compared with a third (36%) of those 35 and older.”

Within the younger bracket, that figure stands at 40% for 18-24s and 42% for 25-34s. That pattern - wherein the 25-34s avoid news at a higher rate than their juniors - has held steady since 2017 when the institute first surveyed it.

Some 34% of under 35s told surveyors that the news “has a negative effect on their mood”, a figure which rises to 64% among those avoiding it. 

And 27% of the 18-24s group reported avoiding the news because they see it as biased or untrustworthy. 

The report says: “As under 35s grew up in the digital age and have been socialised by older generations to be critical of the information they consume, our qualitative research suggests they take a particularly sceptical approach to all information and often question the ‘agenda’ of purveyors of news.

“In this sense, mainstream news brands are not inherently more valued for impartiality by some young people, and their wariness of bias at times pushes them away from consuming news altogether.”

Many of the young people surveyed reported avoiding specific topics rather than news altogether. Approximately 40% of under-35s said they were interested in science, technology, international and local news.

In general the demographic’s interest in these categories was less pronounced than that of their elders - for example, 19 percentage points fewer under-35s expressed interest in local news than over-35s.

But on a few topics their interest was approximately the same as, or greater than, older audiences'. Under-35s’ interest in lifestyle, culture and social justice was comparable to that of older groups. Their interest in entertainment and celebrity news (33%) was five percentage points higher than that of over-34s, and their interest in education (34%) was four points over.

“Younger audiences often distinguish between ‘the news’ as the narrow, traditional agenda of politics and current affairs”, the authors report, “and ‘news’ as a much wider umbrella encompassing topics like sports, entertainment, celebrity gossip, culture, and science”.

Picture: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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