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News Consumption Preferences in the UK

The next speaker in this ECREA 2012 session is Alison Preston from the UK Office of Communication, whose interest is in the role of online and social media in news consumption, as measured by an Ofcom survey of some 3,300 respondents and various focus groups and interviews. Most people in the UK use television for news; just over half use radio and newspapers for news (the latter is declining); while Internet, mobile, and app-based news consumption is growing rapidly, especially in younger groups. Word of mouth news dissemination, at least face-to-face, is declining, and possibly moving to social media platforms.

Key drivers are a desire to know what is going on in the world, and to keep informed about issues in society; these are even across all age groups. Forming opinions and getting different perspectives on the news are lesser motivations, and here mainly for older age groups. Getting something to talk about, gaining knowledge for job or study, following the news as a general routine, or filling time are less important.

For some younger audiences, news is what you do when you grow up; for many news users, news consumption is squeezed into spare time at work or at home; TV still dominates news consumption across almost all types of news; rumour and gossip is the only area where tabloid newspapers and online news lead. Radio is strongest in providing opinion and debates; online, interestingly, isn't. Internet and press are largely in tandem with each other, especially when broadsheet newspapers and equivalent Websites are considered.

In terms of brands, the BBC dominates (at 57%), followed by Facebook, Google, and the Sky News Website (at just under 20% for each of them). Facebook and Google are valued because of word-of-mouth, crowd evaluation of the importance of news stories, and the mix of news types. Online, TV broadcaster sites dominate (especially the BBC), followed by aggregators, newspaper sites and apps, and social media; both newspaper sites and social media are especially popular with younger audiences, though newspaper sites more so with more affluent groups. The dominant mode of accessing news online remains reading news stories, then, by a large margin.