News brands have a healthy future, but it might be on TikTok

News brands have a healthy future, but it might be on TikTok

By Suzana Lay, Head of Brand Team & Planning Director, The Grove Media

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen quite a lot of media attention on the changing ways that young people consume news and, in some cases, actively avoid the news. Two major surveys were published, one after the other, highlighting shifting behaviours that many in the industry were clearly aware of, but were nevertheless probably surprised by the extent of the change. 

First, we had Ofcom’s annual report on news consumption in the UK that revealed that Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are now the top three news sources for UK teens. The preference for consuming news via social has remained steady among this age group over the past five years (55% to 57% ever use it), but the choice of platforms has changed significantly. TikTok has rocketed in popularity over the past three years, now commanding a 28% share, while Facebook, at 22%, has lost ten points in three years. YouTube (28%) has lost five points in a year, while Instagram remains pretty much the same (29%).

TikTok is used by 7% of adults for news, but half of its news followers are aged 16 to 24.

For those who consume news on TikTok, their main source is other people they follow (44%), followed by friends and family (32%) and then news organisations (24%). The most popular official news sources on TikTok include Sky News, the BBC and ITV.

Soon after the news of TikTok’s ascendancy came the more concerning finding from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, that young people are selectively avoiding ‘serious news’ – at least for some of the time – to protect their mental health. The report said that while 18-30-year-olds are still seeking out and engaging with news, more often than not, it is in areas such as sport, entertainment, culture and celebrity gossip. And importantly, they are very used to having and, in fact, expect to have news and information curated for them via algorithms on social media.

While it would be understandable to jump to the conclusion that this is further evidence of the demise of news brands, this is simply not the case. What it clearly is evidence of, is the need for media brands and advertisers alike to use all the latest platforms and formats to engage young people. Frankly, given that 23 million people use TikTok each month for entertainment and communication, it’s no surprise it’s the main source of news for young people. 

And smart news brands know this and have been moving in this direction for some time. In the US, the Washington Post has successfully migrated to TikTok, producing amusing and entertaining videos giving their take on the day’s news. In the UK, the Daily Mail is way out in front with 3.8 million followers on TikTok, according to data from the platform. Contrast this with Sky News on 1.6m, the Washington Post on 1.4m, and The Sun on 977k. Right at the bottom of the table, using TikTok’s data from June, is The Times which has just 453 users. 

And it’s not just the new kid on the block TikTok that news brands are using. The Guardian has been very successful on Facebook with nearly 8.8m followers, compared to The Sun’s 3.4m. But Facebook has an increasingly older demographic, as does Twitter, which has become a vital platform for immediate news dissemination by news brands and their lead journalists. 

It’s also important to understand that traditional news brands are not just using the latest platforms. They are also often the key source of news, influencing the news journey across social platforms. According to trade body Newsworks, every half hour a national newspaper brand is mentioned as a news source by the broadcast media in the UK. And regularly we see a major news brand break a story that then takes on a life of its own across social platforms. 

The key thing for both news brands and the advertising industry is to stay on top of the changing news consumption behaviour of young people. Like the rest of young people’s media consumption, it’s increasingly on-demand. There is a trend towards looking for specific news topics as and when rather than dedicating media time specifically to news platforms.

News brands are increasingly having to think in terms of bitesize news. Sky News does this well on TikTok and Instagram, using the full suite of creative options available: reels, stories etc and creating bespoke content. Young audiences have grown up using a variety of formats across text, video and audio and expect news brands – and advertisers – to meet their needs and deliver content in engaging ways. 

TikTok should not be seen as the enemy of traditional news. Along with its competitors, TikTok must be embraced and used in ever more creative ways by news brands and advertisers to ensure they remain relevant for the new era of consumers. 

Feature picture Shingi Rice/ Unsplash

This article appeared in Mediacat Magazine, link below