TikTok and other popular social platforms are increasingly becoming the primary sources of news for young people, surpassing the influence of journalists, according to a report released by the Reuters Institute on Wednesday (June 14).
It examined global news consumption trends and revealed a significant disparity in the impact of mainstream journalists on different social media platforms.
While journalists have traditionally thrived on established social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, they struggle to gain traction on newer platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.
The report highlighted the prominence of personalities, influencers, and ordinary individuals in driving conversations around news on these platforms.
Reuters Institute commissioned a survey carried out by British international internet-based market research and data analytics firm, YouGov. In its survey of 94,000 adults in 46 markets, YouGov found that mainstream news outlets outperformed ‘personalities’ (such as influencers and celebrities) on Facebook and Twitter. However, personalities emerged as winners on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, albeit with a narrower margin.
The report noted that publishers have been unsure whether and how to adapt their reporting to new platforms.
“Fears about the unchecked spread of misinformation on the platform, and the potential for connecting with hard-to-reach younger audiences, have convinced some news organizations to stake a presence despite the risks.”
A recent study by Reuters Institute Senior Research Associate Nic Newman in 2022 found that about half of top publishers are now creating content for TikTok, while others are holding back due to concerns about the Chinese government’s influence on the app, as well as the lack of monetization.
“But fears about the unchecked spread of misinformation on the platform, and the potential for connecting with hard-to-reach younger audiences, have convinced some news organizations to stake a presence despite the risks,” the study’s authors led by Newman said.
The study also found that journalists face challenges in adapting to the format of newer social networks, as they often require skills in creating short-form videos. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter enable journalists to promote their work through text and links, TikTok necessitates a different approach that demands video production capabilities.
Despite the growing popularity of TikTok, the report reaffirmed Facebook’s position as the most prominent social platform for news consumption.
About 28% of respondents reported using Facebook for news in the past week, although this marked a decline of 14 percentage points from its peak of 42% in 2016. YouTube followed closely behind with 20%, while WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Messenger, and Snapchat also made the list, albeit with varying levels of usage.
The report also highlighted how Facebook has been distancing itself from news for some time, reducing the percentage of news stories that people see in their feed.
It comes as Facebook works to fight sensationalism and misinformation on the app ever since the quality of news on Facebook has been called into question after the 2016 US election campaign.
Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report also delved into the specific news topics that resonate within different social media networks, shedding light on audience expectations and interests. The study revealed significant disparities in the types of news subjects preferred by users across platforms.
Twitter emerged as the platform of choice for users seeking hard news subjects, such as politics and business news. Conversely, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook users displayed a greater inclination toward consuming fun posts, including satire, that relate to news.
Interestingly, the report highlighted a sense of ambivalence, and perhaps even fatigue, regarding the war in Ukraine across all networks. Despite the topic’s importance, lower levels of attention were observed compared to lighter news topics, national politics, or business and economic news. The reasons behind this phenomenon remain unclear, whether it signifies declining interest, algorithmic biases, or a combination of both.
The findings of the report underscore the increasing dominance of TikTok influencers and celebrities as news sources for younger demographics, as well as the challenges faced by both journalists and social media platforms in meeting the evolving demands of their audiences.
The report also highlights the trajectory of TikTok, as the platform continues its transformation into a multi-faceted mega app that encompasses various functionalities such as social media, video sharing, shopping, and music discovery.
In recent years, the influence of TikTok on the music industry has been significant. Data from Luminate suggests that at least one in two music listeners in the Asia Pacific region turn to TikTok, among other social media platforms, to explore and discover new music.
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