People Are Reading Less News Through Social Media and Google

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A survey in the UK has found that fewer people are getting their news via social media and Google search. Last year, 49% of adults said they accessed news via social media, but that has now dropped to 45%.

The takeaways:
  • Of the people that access news on social media, usage is growing
  • Facebook is the most popular platform, with 76% of this group using it for news (up from 73%)
  • Twitter and Instagram have also seen rises, up 37% from 32% and 31% up from 28% respectively

However, users on all three of these platforms are less engaged with the news than they have been in previous years according to Ofcom. Smaller proportions are clicking through to or sharing articles or videos.

Just Google it:
  • People using Google to find news has dropped dramatically, with just 39% of people saying they used the search engine for news this year, compared to 51% in 2019.
  • Shifting behaviours:It’s not all bad for Google though. Use of Google News has risen from 13% to 17% in a year
  • Watch out for: Google’s “new news experience” coming later this year, where they’ll be licensing content from selected news publishers

Why it matters: Social media has grown to be one of the primary ways misinformation and fake news is spread, with false information able to rapidly reach millions of users.

Yes, but: Trust in social media platforms is also falling, and they are rated lower than any of the other main news sources.

  • Just 35% of those who regularly use it for news say that it is trustworthy, down from 38% last year
  • Facebook is seen as the least trustworthy with just 32% of people trusting what they read on the platform
  • Twitter is seen as the most trustworthy, with 39% of people trusting the content they see

What DO people trust? TV still reigns supreme when it comes to how people in the UK access news, and the sources they trust. 3 in 4 people rely on TV for news, with 83% of those favouring BBC channels.

The bigger picture:

The UK may be growing more sceptical of social media, but worldwide, the numbers are still trending up. The Reuters News Report 2020, released in June, showed that each of the social networks were seeing an increase in the number of people who used it to access news globally.

  • Instagram was a particular highlight; its use as a news source globally has doubled since 2018.
  • Worldwide, there is still huge mistrust of social media, with only a 26% trust rating compared to 59% for national governments and news organisations

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