Ofcom: TikTok is the most popular news source for 12-15 year olds

BBC One remains the most-used news single source across all platforms
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TikTok has become the most popular news source for teenagers in the UK, according to Ofcom

Its News Consumption in the UK 2022/23 report, revealed the popular social media app is used by around 28% of 12-15 year olds who want to find out about current affairs. 

YouTube and Instagram are joint second, with those apps being used by 25% of the age group. 

Topics of interest for this age range include ‘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%). 

The report also revealed that now roughly 68% of UK adults use online sources for news, compared with just 26% for physical newspapers. 

TikTok is the most popular news source for young teenagersTikTok is the most popular news source for young teenagers
TikTok is the most popular news source for young teenagers

Overall, the most popular platform remains the TV, with 70% of adults turning to this medium to find out about current events - the figure rises to 75% when on-demand content is included.

In the next age bracket, 16-24s, social media still dominates the top five most popular news sources, with Instagram coming top at 44%, followed by Facebook (33%), Twitter (31%), and TikTok, (29%).

BBC One (49%) remains the most-used news single source across all platforms, followed by ITV (34%) – although both channels have seen significant 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.

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%).

Previously, Jess Natale, creator of so.informed - an Instagram-based news-sharing platform, told NationalWorld her motivation for starting the page stems from wanting to shift the narrative in what content was seen: “I started the So page in February 2020 as a way to break down issues that were being discussed during the primaries. The page was really an effort to get more people engaged in what I felt was a deeply important election. I chose Instagram as the platform because I felt that I wasn’t seeing that kind of content on that platform and wanted to attempt to shift the narrative.”

She told NationalWorld that young people are more inclined to use social media for news, saying: “I think people - particularly young people - utilise social media to consume information because there is simply so much to take in all the time. When pages like the So page simplify information so it’s palatable, it’s easier to take in the constant influx of news. TikTok is also great in the way that creators simplify the news via video.”

One in ten (10%) 16-24s claims to consume no news – twice the figure for all adults. 

Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said there is a big shift taking place in terms of how people consume news and that more publishers have been joining TikTok.

He said: “TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, the people younger people are listening to tend to be influencers, personalities, they film for a range of reasons – in some instances you have specific news creators, in other cases it’s just personalities, comedians, talking about issues including free school meals.

“In terms of the implications for the industry, one of the things we’ve really seen in the last 12 months is we have publishers who are very reluctant to go into TikTok, but over the last 12 months, we’ve seen most major publishers refocus their strategy, partly as otherwise there’s more risk of young people seeing unreliable news.

“That’s more challenging as there’s no business model for TikTok, so it’s very hard.

He explains that surveys have also shown TikTok to be one of the least trusted sites partly due to being one of the newest - and that it's just starting to build relationships with young people.

He added: “During the war in Ukraine we saw young people going to traditional news brands – but not for very long, it depends on what the subject is to some extent.

“Covid was a big change because people were at home and people were talking about Covid on TikTok and people had a bit of time. That’s a case of very serious news being carried on TikTok.

“Passions and celebrity news, that’s a big part of what’s going on with the younger people, but there’s also serious news, that’s the wider big shift.”

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