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Research: Instagram leading news source for teens

July 21, 2022

Teenagers in the UK are turning away from traditional news channels and are instead looking to Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to keep up to date, Ofcom research has found.

Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK 2021/22 report shows that, for the first time, Instagram is the most popular news source among teenagers – used by nearly three in ten in 2022 (29 per cent). TikTok and YouTube follow closely behind, used by 28 per cent of youngsters to follow news.

BBC One and BBC Two – historically the most popular news sources among teens – have been knocked off the top spot down to fifth place. Around a quarter of teens (24 per cent) use these channels for news in 2022, compared to nearly half (45 per cent) just five years ago.

BBC One remains the most used news source among all online adults, although it is one of several major TV news channels to reach fewer people in 2022. News viewing to BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News channel, ITV and Sky News is now below pre-pandemic levels, resuming a longer-term decline in traditional TV news viewing.

TikTok clocks up millions more news users

Conversely, TikTok has seen the largest increase in use of any news source between 2020 and 2022 – from 0.8 million UK adults in 2020 (1 per cent), increasing to 3.9 million UK adults in 2022 (7 per cent). This brings it onto a par with Sky News’ website and app.

TikTok’s growth is primarily driven by younger age groups, with half of its news users aged 16 to 24. Users of TikTok for news claim to get more of their news on the platform from ‘other people they follow’ (44 per cent) than ‘news organisations’ (24 per cent).

“Teenagers today are increasingly unlikely to pick up a newspaper or tune into TV News, instead preferring to keep up-to-date by scrolling through their social feeds. And while youngsters find news on social media to be less reliable, they rate these services more highly for serving up a range of opinions on the day’s topical stories,” commented Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director for Strategy and Research.

Responding to the report, a BBC spokesperson said: “According to this Ofcom research the BBC is the most used news source for 12-15 year olds – via TV, radio, and online – and young people are also consuming BBC News on social media platforms such as our hugely popular Instagram account.”

TV news remains trusted

TV news remains the most trusted news source among UK adults (71 per cent), with news on social media considered the least reliable (35 per cent). CNN (83 per cent) and Sky News (75 per cent) are highly trusted by their viewers for news, while the public service broadcasters are also trusted by the majority of their viewers – BBC (73 per cent), ITV (70 per cent), Channel 4 (66 per cent) and Channel 5 (59 per cent). Sixty-seven per cent of newcomer GB News’s viewers trust its news reporting.

Among teens, half of YouTube and Twitter users think they provide trustworthy news stories (51 per cent and 52 per cent respectively). Despite its popularity for news, fewer than a third of youngsters (30 per cent) trust TikTok’s news content.

Decline in print news appears to accelerate

The combined use of print and online newspapers among adults is 38 per cent in 2022, a significant decrease from 2020 (47 per cent) and 2018 (51 per cent).

This is being driven by the substantial decrease of print newspaper reach in recent years, with the trend seen pre-pandemic appearing to accelerate, likely exacerbated by the pandemic. Less than a quarter (24 per cent) of UK adults use print newspapers for news in 2022, compared with more than a third (35 per cent) in 2020, and two in five (40 per cent) in 2018. Use of newspapers among teenagers fell from 19 per cent to 13 per cent in the last five years.

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