The way we recieve and engage with news has become almost unrecognizable. Not just to individuals of the past, but even in relation to our own behaviors a decade ago.
As smartphone ownership races towards almost complete global coverage, and as communicating over distances becomes instantaneous and constant, it’s common for people to feel overwhelmed by the modern media landscape.
But for some, this wealth of information proves an especially important part of their daily routine.
Globally, 6 in 10 internet users say their most important reason for using the internet is keeping up with the news and current events.
Subsequently, these people are more likely to check their social circles frequently to remain informed and current.
Using our data, we categorized these individuals as ‘news networkers’, those that use social media to keep up with the news and follow journalists or media organization accounts.
Who are news networkers?
With a relatively even split of males and females, they’re a group of younger individuals, with just under half considered millennials.
They’re also more likely to be affluent, with 1 in 4 news networkers being classified among the top 25% of earners worldwide.
They’re more heavily represented in the LatAm and MEA regions, with 3 in 10 internet users in these regions being news networkers, compared to the smaller percentage located in North America (17%).
For this audience, news consumption isn’t just a hobby, but a lifestyle.
Nearly 9 in 10 news networkers agree it’s important to be well informed about things and crucial to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world.
News networkers are 1.3 times more likely to be altruists, demonstrated by the 8 in 10 who agree we should all strive for equality. Furthermore, 3 in 4 feel it’s important to contribute to the community they live in.
Their active participation in forging a better tomorrow means they show more positivity about global issues; an average of half this audience say they feel positive about both the global economy and future of the environment.
Where do they get their news?
Globally, 7 in 10 internet users visited a news website, app, or service in the past month, rising to 97% among news networkers.
Given both its majority ownership and convenience, the most common device users check the news on is a smartphone (88%).
PC/Laptops, however, aren’t out of the picture; 2 in 3 news networkers still say they use them to follow the news on a monthly basis.
Of the 37 news services we track, American network CNN is news networkers’ most often-engaged service globally, while the National Geographic follows in second place, separated only by 1%.
This varies greatly by region, however. Despite being an American news service, 5 in 10 news networkers in the APAC region say they have seen material from the service in the last 30 days, against just over 4 in 10 in North America.
Meanwhile, younger users skew more toward alternative news sources, established more recently than long-standing services such as CNN or BBC News.
While CNN dominates all other age groups, 4 in 10 users aged 16-24 reported seeing National Geographic content in the last 30 days, with other viral news services like Vice and Buzzfeed frequented, on average, two times more likely by this young demographic.
In the past two years, audience engagement across major news services has remained fairly static.
For example, CNN, BBC News and National Geographic, the top 3 news services worldwide for news networkers, have little fluctuation among their engagement figures, suggesting news networkers are loyal to the services they repeatedly interact with.
This presents a difficult challenge for newcomers, given the strong and consistent hold leading news services currently have in this space.
How did social media become a valid news source?
Over the past two decades, digital media has allowed for quicker access and dissemination of information, leading to the decline of traditional news sources, like print.
News apps in particular are becoming more prominent: in the last months, 6 in 10 news networkers say they’ve used a news app, and this figure has climbed 20% since 2013.
This number is slightly lower for younger news networkers, however.
An average of 3 in 4 news networkers aged 25-64 have used a news app in the last month, against roughly 2 in 3 news networkers aged 16-24.
While accessing the news via a website or app does show strong engagement figures – almost double that of accessing news through an aggregate news app – social media still holds a strong lead.
And this gap is only continuing to grow.
Social media has now become the dominant method for news interaction.
No longer considered purely a communication source, social media also serves as a shopping platform, an entertainment site, and now, a news source, all at the swipe of a finger.
Nearly all (95%) news networkers use a social networking app on a monthly basis, spending roughly 32 minutes more per day on social media than the average internet user. This is likely related to the proliferation of articles, videos, and opinions on social media covering news and events.
It’s hard to ignore the presence of social media as a news source, especially given 4 in 10 internet users say keeping up to date with news and current events is their primary reason for using social media. Stating news as a reason surpassed “staying in touch with friends” in the final quarter of 2018.
Users aged 16-24 and 55-64, however, still prefer the social function of social media, valuing interaction with friends and family over news updates.
How do we know who to trust?
But with so many news services to choose from, and mounting ‘fake news’, why do news networkers choose to stick with a particular source, and why should they trust them?
The BBC has the most trust from news networkers, with over half saying the service is both trustworthy and accurate, 5% more than the globally popular CNN.
The BBC has gained the trust of audiences worldwide, deemed the most trustworthy across all age groups and 4 of the 5 world regions ─ leading, in some cases, by a significant margin.
In North America, the BBC leads as the most trustworthy source, with just over half of users sharing this perception. This is 7% ahead of The New York Times and 10% ahead of CNN.
In the LatAm region, CNN narrowly takes the top spot for trustworthiness, leading against the BBC by only a marginal difference.
The level of trust in the BBC is likely a result of its worldwide reputation for expert opinions and in-depth analysis, with news networkers in all 5 world regions citing the BBC as the news service that best embodies these values.
Though CNN is behind in second place, it’s interesting to see two huge global news services retaining the trust of audiences worldwide.
It’s true that information can become lost amidst a sea of misleading, or at times, outright false news sources in today’s digital climate.
Therefore, the most prominent and effective news services continue to be those that appeal to this audience’s desire for neutrality and accuracy, in addition to being up-to-date.
What remains to be seen however, is how popular social media will continue to be as a news source in its own right.
The pressure is mounting for social media giants to display reliable and uncensored news on their platforms, especially in the face of recent issues with information accuracy and data security.
How will news influence our lives in the future?
One possible outcome of the future integration of social media with news services is that it will offer worldwide audiences the opportunity to connect with one another via one news outlet.
Regarding plans to expand into the stricter Chinese market, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is hopeful the move could create a positive – and potentially utopian – outcome, stating: “I wanted our services in China because I believe in connecting the whole world, and I thought maybe we could help create a more open society.”
Along these same lines, Facebook recently took to combating the spread of disinformation by banning paid ads that discouraged its users from voting in political elections.
There are many positives to be found in the integration of social media and the news.
With worldwide audiences of all ages able to access informative content from anywhere on the planet, issues that once saw little representation could quickly gain traction.
It’s ‘simply’ a matter of filtering out what’s ‘truth’ and what’s not.