In this blog post, we will explore the changing attitudes and behavior of young people towards news, focusing on the differences between social natives (18-24s) and digital natives (25-34s) in terms of news access, formats, and attitudes.
We will be drawing on qualitative research from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022, conducted with 72 young people in Brazil, the UK, and the US. According to the Digital News Report of 2019, young people, particularly those between the ages of 18-24, rely heavily on digital and social media for news and have a weaker connection with traditional news sources.
However, with the growth of newer platforms such as TikTok and Telegram and increasing concerns about news distrust and avoidance, the behavior of young people towards news has evolved even further. In order to ready themselves for a new, young audience, newsrooms must address the needs of their audiences, and distribute news through the varied social media formats where younger audiences are consuming news.
Social Media as a Main Source of News while trust in the news continues to decline
The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022 revealed that social media networks have become the primary source of news for young adults between the ages of 18-24, with 39% of these social media users relying on these networks as their main source of news instead of going to a news website or app.
The study noticed that there has been a gradual transition from Facebook to more visually based platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Noteworthy is the fact that TikTok news consumption among 18-24 year-olds has grown from 3% to 15% in the span of three years.
YouTube has become a favorite source for news among young people in Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. In contrast, those aged 25-34 are more inclined to use Facebook for news since it is the platform that they have grown up with, and have been slower to move to new networks such as TikTok for news.
Despite the rise of online video, text- and audio-based formats remain relevant. People aged under 35 tend to prefer reading news, but they also appreciate a combination of text and video content in order to comprehend information more effectively.
Additionally, podcasts are a popular audio-based format. However, news outlets have experienced a decrease in the interest and trust of news among younger generations, particularly those aged under 35, who have the least confidence in news stories. This is especially true for digital natives, only 27% of whom trust news most of the time. Comparatively, 37% of both 18-24s and 25-34s and 47% of those 55 and over are likely to trust the news.
Younger audiences are avoiding the news
Despite the competition for audiences' time and attention among news outlets and formats, young people increasingly choose to selectively avoid the news, with substantial rises in avoidance among social natives since 2019.
The report found that four out of ten under 35s across all markets often or sometimes avoid the news, compared to 36% of those 35 and older. The main reason for avoiding the news is its negative impact on their mood and the overwhelming coverage of depressing topics like politics and the coronavirus. Young people, who have grown up in the digital age and are critical of the information they consume, take a skeptical approach to all information and often question the agenda of news providers, which can lead to avoiding news altogether.
However, this selective avoidance is not limited to younger audiences, but the Reuters research suggests that political news avoidance is tied to negative perceptions, lack of relevance, and distrust in news.
Different Interests in News Topics
Younger audiences have different attitudes toward news compared to older groups and are more likely to believe that media organizations should take a stand on issues like climate change. They have a wider definition of what news is, considering topics like sports, entertainment, and science as news.
Despite being less interested in traditional news topics such as politics, international, and crime news, younger audiences are more likely to be interested in entertainment and celebrity news, culture and arts news, and education news. However, the report notes that not all young people are interested in the same types of news and that there is variation by market.
Motivations for Accessing News
The motivations for accessing news are different for different age groups. All age groups consider news as important for learning new things, but younger people under 35 are slightly more motivated by the entertainment value and shareability of news compared to older groups. They are slightly less motivated by a sense of duty to stay informed or the personal use of news. However, the sense of duty to consume news varies between those under and over 35, and it also varies between countries.
In conclusion, the behavior and attitudes of young people towards news have evolved significantly in recent years. The rise of digital and social media platforms has led to an increased reliance on these sources for news, especially among social natives.
Online video platforms like TikTok and Instagram have become popular sources of news for younger audiences due to their informal and entertaining style. Meanwhile, digital natives have remained loyal to Facebook for news but have been slow to adopt newer networks for news.
Young people have different motivations for accessing news compared to older groups, with the entertainment value and shareability of news being slightly more important for them. If publishers want to succeed in capturing the attention of younger audiences, it’s clear they need to branch out into different formats and address audience needs by planning content that reaches addresses the audiences’ needs in the right place, at the right time.