Light-hearted news on social media drawing Gen Z away from traditional sources

24th July 2023
Online news sources – particularly social media sites and apps – are the dominant means by which younger people in the UK access news, meaning their direct relationships with traditional news brands are weakening, Ofcom has found.
Two teenage girls with phones in their hands are sitting at home on bed. Social Media tiktok is loaded on screen.
Two teenage girls with phones in their hands are sitting at home on bed. Social Media tiktok is loaded on screen. Credit: Luiza Kamalova /
This press release was originally published on Ofcom and is republished with permission.

  • Young social news scrollers less likely to head to news websites direct
  • Celebrity, sports and music news dominates teens’ social media news diet
  • BBC One remains most-used news source overall among adults, but gradual decline continues
  • Reach of print newspapers is stable this year after long-term decline

Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK 2022/23 report reveals that older teens and young adults aged 16-24 are much more likely to consume news online than adults generally (83% vs 68%). And usually, it’s via social media on their mobile phones (63% vs 39%).

People in this age group are also much less likely than the average adult to access news content from traditional media sources, such as TV (47% vs 70%), radio (25% vs 40%) and print newspapers (16% vs 26%).

The study also finds that 16-24s reach online news in a different way to older generations. They’re much less likely than other adults to navigate straight to traditional news websites (9% vs 26%) and more commonly go via social media (37% vs 24%). This behaviour suggests youngsters have less of a direct connection with established news brands.

Listen: Should public media leave social media? (Podcast)

Social media platforms dominate the top five most popular news sources among 16-24s. Instagram (44%) is the most-used single news source, followed by Facebook 33%, Twitter 31%, and TikTok, 29%. Coming in joint second, BBC One (33%) is the only traditional media source to feature in their top five.

Among the youngest children in the study aged 12-15, TikTok is now the most used single source of news across all platforms (28%), followed by YouTube (25%) and Instagram (25%). However, taking into account all news content across its platforms, the BBC still has the highest reach of any news organisation among this age group (39%).

The news topics of most interest to younger teens generally are: ‘sports or sports personalities’ (23%), ‘music news or singers’ (15%), ‘celebrities or famous people’ (11%), ‘serious things going on in the UK’ (8%) and news about ‘animals or the environment’ (9%). Lighter news topics are of particular appeal across social media sites TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

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Ofcom’s annual report also looks more broadly at the news habits of UK adults across TV, radio, print, social media, podcasts, other websites and apps and magazines.

Broadcast TV news maintains its position as the most popular source, used by 70% of UK adults. This increases to 75% when broadcast video on-demand news content is included. The public service broadcasters remain a dominant force in news delivery, collectively reaching 94% of television news audiences. Outside of the PSBs and Sky News, no other TV channel offering news reaches more than 8% of UK TV audiences.

TV channels used by TV news audiences. Credit: Ofcom

BBC One (49%) remains the most-used news single source across all platforms, followed by ITV (34%) – although both channels have seen gradual declines over the past five years (down from 62% and 41% respectively). Similarly, Facebook – the third most popular news source among adults – is showing signs of decline, from 33% to 30% over the same period.

In contrast, TikTok’s popularity as a source of news is growing, with one in every 10 adults (10%) using it to keep up with the latest stories – overtaking BBC Radio 1 (8%) and Channel 5 (8%) for the first time.

TikTok (55%), along with Instagram (53%), is particularly popular among adults for celebrity news. Twitter is the favoured destination for breaking (61%) and political news (45%), while Facebook is the preferred source for local news (59%).

And finally…

Following a long-term decline in the use of print newspapers – with overall reach of these news brands being supplemented by their digital platforms – our most recent data shows that print newspaper reach was consistent between 2022 and 2023.

Just over a quarter of adults (26%) now access news via print newspapers, increasing to 39% when including their online platforms.

The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and the Guardian/Observer are the most widely-read print and digital news titles overall.