eMarketer estimates that more than half of the UK population will use social networks in 2013. These users are employing social platforms both as content aggregators and as a way to engage digitally with print media brands, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Newspapers and Magazines: Consumers' Digital Readership on the Rise.”
Social media is taking on notable relevance when it comes to the way news content is consumed in the UK. In Ofcom’s “News Consumption in the UK - 2013” report, highlighting research conducted by Kantar Media in April 2013, 23% of UK internet users said they used social networking websites or apps, such those for Facebook and Twitter, for news consumption—the same proportion that cited accessing newspapers’ sites or apps.
Among social networks, Twitter in particular has become renowned as a platform for eyewitness coverage of fast-breaking stories. However, news consumption in a social networking environment is often less “social” than one would imagine—and may not result in substantially wider distribution of content from news brands. Such channels are often used like content aggregators, with social’s sharing component often secondary. Data from Ipsos OTX and Ipsos Global @dvisor from this past April showed that just 14% of internet users surveyed in Great Britain had shared news items on social networks. Links to “articles,” cited by 22% of respondents, may have included some content traditionally associated with newspaper publications—such as opinion pieces—but proportionally still likely accounted for a small portion of shares.
However, people who look to access news content via social networks tend to do it often. Ofcom’s April 2013 study asked UK internet users who used websites or apps for news consumption how often they accessed news content on specific platforms. While the leading national news brands—across TV and newspaper publishers—saw good engagement levels, with upward of 60% of readers accessing their sites or apps at least once per day, that figure rose to more than 80% for Facebook and Twitter.
But while social media is becoming an important news source among UK consumers, many view this channel with some degree of caution. Ofcom data indicated that the level of trust afforded to social sites as news sources was much lower than for news brands’ websites or apps, as well as for traditional broadcast TV or newspaper platforms.
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