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Australia: Online overtakes TV as main news source

April 22, 2020

The Internet has overtaken TV as the main place Australians turn for their news, according to findings from Roy Morgan Research, which suggest that 12.7 million Australians (60.6 per cent, up 2.8ppts from 57.8 per cent in mid-2018) now use the Internet including:

  • social media – 37.6 per cent;
  • news or newspaper websites or apps – 29.2 per cent;
  • news feed sites such as Google News, Apple News and Flipboard – 16.3 per cent (up 3.7ppts and the largest increase for any of the online sources of news);
  • email subscriptions or updates – 8.9 per cent;
  • magazines (printed, website or app) – 5.2 per cent; and
  • other websites or apps – 5.6 per cent.

Now just behind is TV, used by 12.4 million (59.5 per cent) – down more than 6ppts from 65.6 per cent including:

  • Free-to-air TV – 56.4 per cent (down 5.9ppts); and
  • Pay-TV such as Foxtel’s Sky/BBC/CNN/Fox News etc. – 8.3 per cent.

TV is a main source of news for around three-fifths of Australians and this is built on the strength of free-to-air TV as a source of news for Australians aged in their mid-forties and above.

Around 80 per cent of Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers say free-to-air TV is a main source of news for them, and nearly two-thirds of Generation X (64 per cent) nominate free-to-air TV as a main news source – higher than any other channel. However, the popularity of free-to-air TV drops away significantly for younger generations. Only 40 per cent of Millennials and 36 per cent of Generation Z say free-to-air TV is a main source of news.

In contrast to the older generations, both Millennials (77 per cent) and Generation Z (74 per cent) are more likely to say the Internet is a main source of news, ahead of other forms of media including free-to-air TV. The leading source of news online for younger generations is social media, mentioned by 59 per cent of Generation Z and 50 per cent of Millennials.

Print newspapers are the second ranked source of news for Pre-Boomers (54 per cent) and third ranked source of news for Baby Boomers (41 per cent). But newspapers in their traditional format rank below free-to-air TV, radio and social media for Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan, says the way we consume news is in the spotlight as Australia faces the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Internet has overtaken TV to become the main source of news for Australians. However, within these broader categories, free-to-air TV is used by 57.6 per cent as a source of news far ahead of second-placed radio (42.4 per cent) and social media (37.6 per cent) in third.”

“Free-to-air TV is the best way to reach Australians in Gen X, Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers who are now aged in their mid-forties and above, while radio is the second best channel to reach Baby Boomers and those in Gen X.”

“Many see the biggest challenge surrounding dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic as getting the message through to younger generations who may feel the virus doesn’t pose a real threat to them. The Internet is the primary source of news for around three-quarters of Millennials and Gen Z, far higher than other channels, and social media is the best channel to use to reach younger Australians.”

“As we explored last week, different social media channels offer the way to reach optimal numbers of Australians within each generation – led by Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.”

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