Watch, listen, read and social: how are we consuming news today?

Like so many people, I probably spend too much time-consuming news every day, mostly online, and mostly via my smartphone.

17/05/2022

Like so many people, I probably spend too much time-consuming news every day, mostly online, and mostly via my smartphone. 

So, it’s interesting to think about how most of us consume news in 2022 and what the future heralds. 

Paper is decidedly out of fashion, despite the plethora of newspapers and magazines we still see at the store. Most newsprint paper is sustainable, and yet it’s tarred with the brush of coming from a tree. Sustainability advocates would suggest gleaning your daily dose of news online is a greener approach – despite the enormous power consumed by the internet (pundits suggest the internet will use a fifth of all the world’s electricity by 2025).

Of course, the pandemic has had a hand in how we consume news – not only from rumours that the virus can be transmitted by paper (now discounted as being very low) – but in our move towards living life online during multiple global lockdowns. 

And despite the urgent daily desire to catch up on the latest virus news over the last 24 months or so – we’ve all experienced ‘news fatigue’ to some degree, right? 

According to a recent YouGov news survey, traditional media sources (TV, radio, and print) have experienced a consistent decline, suggesting a gradual shift to digital news sources.

The survey also says social networks and newspaper websites are now used by a third of Americans as their primary source of news.

Taking the US as an example, TV news consumption remained the most popular medium over the last few (pandemic) years but closely followed by social media and newspaper websites, according to YouGov. 

And interestingly, in the US, television is significantly more popular among those over 45, along with radio and news websites. Meanwhile, for Gen Z, those aged 25-34, and younger millennials aged 18-24, social media is now the top news source.

Podcasts have grown enormously in popularity in the last few years, demonstrating a desire to catch up with world events while perhaps doing something else – like visiting the gym, doing a supermarket shop or driving somewhere. According to the YouGov data, podcasts are, in fact, the only media type which will see a higher projected annual consumption in the next 12 months, compared to the previous year.

We have become accustomed to curating our own news feed – driven by interests, hobbies and concerns. Cynicism over the motives and agendas of large media houses has led many people to seek out their own news – which, in turn, has led to an explosion of niche – and not always reliable – news sources online. 

News remains big business, especially in times such as the recent global pandemic, and interest remains high, of course, in politics and wars. 

But to continue engaging with younger news consumers, delivery must continue to evolve. Whether it’s an eight-second, 30 seconds, or one-minute social media clip, the skill in gaining interest and consumer loyalty lies in a news provider’s ability to keep up with current delivery trends, and make the news fit the format. 

In the coming years, digital is certainly seen as the key driver of how we consume media. While Gen Z will drive podcasts and music streaming services, the younger generation is also driving social media use.

I think the trend – for news providers – might well be to balance the medium with the message, making the two work together as well as possible. We have moved from news provision driven by habit and ritual to an era where it explodes into our lives in a myriad of ways. News providers might not be able to control the medium, but they are still capable of controlling the messaging. Who stays ahead of news delivery will simply be the organisation which utilises technology most effectively.

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