The global media landscape in 2024Find out

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, the media has a trust problem; which is less-than-great considering that half the global population lives in a country set for a nationwide election in 2024.

Given the importance of this year’s political calendar, this problem impacts everyone, especially media professionals, political parties, and social media brands.  So it’s pretty vital to stay in the know on the top political media trends for 2024:

  1. TV is ahead of social as a news source, for now
  2. TV news has a huge opportunity to win trust back
  3. Still, social media is primed to take over as the go-to for news
  4. YouTube is #1 for social news content, but X and Reddit pack a punch
  5. Short-form is important, but not the whole picture
  6. AI has no place in political content

Political news consumption and how it’s evolved

Just like this year’s election calendar, the political media space can be summarized by one word – crowded. There are dozens of channels to receive political information, and navigating this landscape can seem trickier than winning votes. 

We pointed out in our latest social report that more consumers are taking to social platforms to get news, but hope is not lost for TV as it’s still on top, and a major reason is a higher level of trust in TV news. 

1. TV is ahead of social as a news source, for now

When consumers are looking for news, they’re more likely to grab their remotes than open up social media apps – for now that is. 

The US are the world leaders for daily time spent watching broadcast TV, so it makes sense that 63% of voting-age (18+) consumers watch local or national news channels to stay informed. And it’s not just the US who are big fans of broadcast, as consumers outside the US are most likely to keep up with US politics via TV news.

TV is still home to major US political events, such as speeches, debates, and election night coverage. And even if more consumers are opening social apps to keep up with the news (63% for TV vs. 53% for social media), news organizations can still be relevant on the platforms and capture these scrollers by posting updates, videos, and livestreams of big events. 

Still, TV is #1 for now, and so it’s essential to understand the American TV news landscape. Among the “big three” of major national news networks – CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC – CNN leads for regular viewership among all voting-age Americans.

1 chart showing party splits for channel viewership

Other news channels are divided on party lines. For example, those who said they’d vote Democrat if an election were held tomorrow, are more likely to be watching MSNBC, whereas intended Republican voters are tuning into Fox News. 

Part of why CNN performs higher than both is viewership among planned independent voters and undecideds. Both MSNBC and Fox News are perceived as biased sources, so CNN is their go-to when they’re looking for more balanced political media.

While social news is definitely on the rise, TV has the most to gain this election season, as it’s the most trusted of the news sources.

2. TV news has a huge opportunity to win trust back

We said before that the media has a trust problem, and trust won’t be earned back overnight. A key step to winning trust back is to report facts, and those facts often need to be verified.

That’s great for TV news. Both in the US and globally, they’re the most trusted source to provide accurate fact-checking information. Broadcasters would do well to remind viewers the lengths they go to vet information before going on air, and they can do the same on their official social media channels.

US consumers are over 3.5x more likely to trust TV news to provide accurate fact-checking information than social media platforms

Newspapers and online news platforms are also generally trusted sources, while social media platforms rank much lower – only 10% of US consumers (19% worldwide) trust them to accurately fact-check information. 

Gen Z, the ones most likely to consume news on social media, are 55% more likely than the average global consumer to say they trust social media platforms to accurately fact-check information. In the US, it’s the most-trusted source among these young consumers.

TV can still cater to everyone, despite Gen Z trusting what they see on social apps more. In the US, over 80% of Gen Z use their mobiles while watching TV, so providing something like a QR code on screen to take viewers to the source/source info could be helpful, and emphasizing sources they’re likely to trust, such as government agencies, can get Gen Z trusting TV news again.

Media organizations, including TV, newspapers, and online platforms, should also emphasize their dedicated fact-checking teams and their qualified journalists. Agreement on good quality journalism being worth paying for is at an all-time high in the US, and TV news can take advantage of this sentiment to win a lot of trust points back in the political media landscape.

3. Still, social media is primed to take over as the go-to for news

All that being said, TV news might be on borrowed time. 53% of Americans (70% among Gen Z) have seen, read, or heard news on social media in the past month – globally, those numbers are higher, climbing to 57% overall and 71% among Gen Z.

Political content on social media resonates especially with Gen Z in APAC markets like Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, where 80% see news on their favorite platforms. Singapore’s newly elected PM won partly thanks to his social media presence, while US and French politicians have found themselves unlikely stars on TikTok. 

There are more voting age Gen Z in the US who consume news on social media (73%), than there are in the workforce (57%)

Other generations are catching up on the social news trend. Globally, over 6 in 10 millennials scroll social apps for the news, and Gen X are approaching the 50% mark. Only 32% of the most politically active generation in the US, baby boomers, have used social media for the news, but as we pointed out in our social report, baby boomers are increasing their time on platforms. It’s up to media organizations to reach them on the apps they’re most likely to use, like Facebook, with more precision.

Some platforms are better than others for political content, and here’s a run down of which ones work the best. 

4. YouTube is #1, but X and Reddit pack a punch

If there was an election for the social platform best suited for political news, YouTube, the world’s go-to source for video content, would win the lion’s share of votes. 

It’s the #1 platform that best informs global consumers on politics (30%). This will also be the first US election after the introduction of their Shorts feature, so we can see how their high-performing short-form feature impacts the 2024 election. 

Consumers can get bite-sized clips of debates, speeches, and coverage. For some parties, short-form can be a key way to build awareness for their platform or poke fun at other parties. With more flocking to YouTube for political content, Shorts is only set to grow more, especially in the US if a TikTok ban is fully realized.

2 chart showing which platforms used to view content and its ranking

YouTube also benefits from having a massive user base. Even as the top social platform for political media, YouTube is performing exactly how they should be, while X and Reddit punch above their weight when it comes to monthly engagement and informing on politics.

Users of X and Reddit are more likely to be following politicians or journalists/media on social media compared to other global consumers. Users of both platforms log on expecting to be informed, and having content there for them to read and discuss can scratch their itch for information.

5. Short-form is important, but not the whole picture

It’s not just social media platforms that matter – the types of content matter too. Short-form is all the hype right now, and the hype is justified. Since the last US election in 2020, we’ve seen Instagram Reels grow and YouTube Shorts launch stateside, while the amount of TikTok users who use the app to keep up with the news/the world has jumped up 56%.

It’s not just short-form video that’s growing, long-form video is too. 83% of consumers in 11 markets say they usually watch content that’s over 5 minutes in length. YouTube is the undisputed leader for long-form content, and other platforms are scrambling to accommodate long-form in response; TikTok’s testing 30-minute uploads, and Reels now accommodates videos up to 15 minutes.  

3 Chart showing the long form content political consumers engage with

Around 1 in 4 long-form viewers have watched political content in the last month, with US viewers slightly more likely to do so as consumers gear up for the election cycle. But political content viewers are a unique audience on their own. They are much more likely than the average long-form viewer to look for informative content with long-run times, such as webinars, podcasts, and video essays – something that TV news organizations may not want to hear. 

While providing viewers with snackable short-form content will be essential for political media, there will be an audience that wants longer, nuanced content. A platform that can provide both will be more likely to capture consumers’ attention this election season. 

6. AI has no place in political content

If low trust in media wasn’t worrying enough for both consumers and the media, the emergence of generative AI only stands to make things worse. India’s election earlier this year was the first major election to deal with generative AI, while the UK and US have already prepared for deepfake information to hit social platforms ahead of their respective elections.

AI is the fastest-growing fear in the US (+89% in the past year). While generative AI is being embraced for uses like data analysis and language translation, a huge number of Americans would find it inappropriate to use it in any capacity in political content. 

Media organizations might find it harmless to produce something small like a graphic or some text copy with generative AI, but the risk isn’t worth the reward, especially with low trust towards the media worldwide. If they do, labels stating that AI-generated part/all of the content will be needed, a sentiment that over 4 in 5 consumers globally agree with. 

The final tally – what you need to know

To sum up, the political media scene is in a bit of a strange place. TV is still important – enough to command 72% of projected political ad spend in the US – but more and more consumers are also flocking to social media for news. 

On social media they can get news in their preferred formats, but they’re still skeptical about what they’re seeing, and AI-generated content isn’t making things easier. Trust is a thing that can take years to build, seconds to destroy – and even longer to rebuild.  That rebuild can start with honesty in AI usage, verifying facts, and being direct with consumers.

The global media landscape in 2024 Check it out

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