Social media is main news source for more than a quarter of under-25s

15 Jun 2016

Facebook is the dominant social media when if comes to accessing news. Image: Connor McKenna

Social media has passed out TV as the main source of news for 18-to-24-year-olds for the first time, according to a new report.

The Reuters Institute’s 2016 Digital News Report surveyed 50,000 people across 26 countries and found that more than a quarter (28pc) of 18-to-24-year-olds said social media was their main source of news, compared to 24pc who cited television.

While just over one-in-10 of the overall sample (12pc) said social media was their main source of news, for every group under 45, online news is now more important than television news.

Facebook is the dominant social media when it comes to accessing news, with 44pc of the total sample – and two-thirds of Facebook users – saying they use it to access news.

Interestingly, the report found that women are more likely than men to find news through social media, rather than going directly to a news website or app.

It’s all about the money

Despite the growth in people’s consumption of online news, they are still not willing to pay for it, with just 9pc of those surveyed in the highly-competitive English-speaking world saying they would be likely to pay for news.

However, this figure did rise to almost twice that in some countries where English is not the main language.

Likely to increase publishers’ woes is that the use of ad-blockers is running from 10pc (Japan) to as high as 38pc (Poland), with use of the technology much higher among under-35s.

However, only 8pc use ad-blockers on their smartphones, while 53pc of those surveyed use those same smartphones to access news, which could be a ray of light for publishers.

Natural selection

With all the talk of algorithms and their increasing influence over what we see online, the survey found that, interestingly, people don’t seem to mind if an algorithm selects their news.

In fact, 36pc said they were happy for news to be selected automatically based on what they had read before, as opposed to 30pc who wished for it to be selected based on the judgement of editors and journalists.


The Irish situation

Ireland’s online news consumption would appear to fall largely in line with global averages, according to the report.

It found that 84pc of those surveyed access news online weekly (compared to 73pc who watch TV for their news), with 52pc accessing news through social media.

Much like the rest of the world, Facebook is the preferred social network when it comes to accessing news, used by 45pc.

Ireland is also in line with the rest of the English-speaking world when it comes to paying for online news (9pc), however, we are above average when it comes to use of ad blockers.

With 30pc of those surveyed saying they use them, this places our use fourth of the 26 countries surveyed.

Brigid O Gorman is a former sub-editor of Silicon Republic.