Younger generations turn to social media for news. This trend marks a shift away from traditional news sources and sheds light on a major generational difference.
What comes to mind when thinking about Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube? Being updated on the most recent news? This is something that we need to get used to. Our survey shows that Scandinavians – especially the younger generations − rely increasingly on social media sources for news.
Gen Z and millennials get their ‘news fix’ through social media
Nowadays, young people use their smartphone for almost everything – from ensuring that they get up in the morning and staying connected with friends to monitoring their health and checking their finances. The applications and possibilities are endless. Social media platforms have become an integral part of their everyday lives, to share, like and engage with all sorts of content.
When it comes to news, the younger generation turns to social media. According to our survey, 65% of 18- to 24-year olds (Gen Z) and 61% of 25- to 34-year olds (millennials) list one or more social media as their preferred source of news. These figures support a trend that has been underway for some time, namely a shift away from traditional news sources such as print versions of newspapers, radio, and TV news.
Social media as one of the top three most preferred news sources
Our survey also indicates that the preferred way of getting news varies between age groups. In comparison with younger age groups most 45- to 75-year olds do prefer using the more traditional news sources: 72% of the 45- to 54-year olds and 77% of the 55- to 75-year olds prefer TV news or other TV programmes as their news sources. Among 18- to 24-year olds, this figure is only 39%.
This difference raises a question of whether the preference among younger people for social media as a source of news is only an age effect, or whether it will continue as they grow older.
TV as one of the three most preferred news sources
A preference for Facebook
Facebook and YouTube stand out as the most popular social media for news. One-quarter of our survey respondents include Facebook among their top three most preferred news sources. For YouTube, this number is 11%.
However, in general social media channels are used as supplementing news sources and are not the most popular. For example, only 8% of respondents regard Facebook as their number one preferred source for getting news. This picture changes when zooming in on the 18- to 24-year olds: 39% have list a social media channel as their preferred source of news, compared to 17% among the entire population.
While the youngest age group is the main user of all other social media platforms, 25- to 34-year olds (31%) mostly use Facebook. An explanation may be that this age group grew up with Facebook, which has become an integral part of their lives. While it may be argued that more recent social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have replaced Facebook in overall popularity, Facebook still manages to retain its popularity when it comes to news.
Among our survey respondents, 27% of 18- to 24-year olds and 26% of 35- to 44-year olds use Facebook as a source of news. Even 20% of the 65- to 75-year olds list Facebook as one of their preferred news sources. These figures indicate that Facebook is a preferred news source across all age groups, even though the use of social media for news declines with age.
Social media use across age groups
In a comparison between countries, people in Denmark use Facebook for news (31%) more than those in Norway (26%) and Sweden (21%). The main users are 18- to 24-year olds (45%) in Denmark and 25- to 34-year olds in Sweden and Norway.
The new popular kid on the block
While Facebook and YouTube have existed for some time, TikTok is a relatively new kid on the block – and a very popular one among the young people. Among the 18- to-24-year olds, 6% choose it as their number one preference for news, and another 15% list it in their top three.
The idea behind TikTok is to film and share short videos, and currently, TikTok takes the position as one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. Especially, young Norwegians like to get their news from TikTok – 21% of Norwegian 18- to 24-year olds choose TikTok as one of their preferred news sources. In both Denmark and Sweden, this number is 13%.
Our survey therefore shows that there are differences between Scandinavian countries in which social media platforms are the preferred news sources: TikTok and Twitter are the main social media news sources in Norway, and Facebook and YouTube are used much more in Sweden and Denmark.
Danes are more interested in news
In general, Scandinavians want to keep updated with news and only 8% say that they are not interested in news. On the other hand, interest in the news and current events is least (16%) among 18- to 24-year olds (Gen Z).
Although only 7% of 18- to 24-year olds in Denmark say that they are not interested in staying updated on news and current events, the figure is much higher in Sweden (18%) and in Norway (23%).
Interest in news
Among the entire population of each country, 7% in Denmark, 9% in Sweden and 8% in Norway are not interested in news and current affairs. This indicates that interest in the news is much the same across all age groups in Denmark.
However, 18- to 24-year olds in Sweden and Norway are much less interested in the news than the rest of the population. In Norway, there is strong correlation between age and interest in the news. Similar correlation is evident in Sweden, although there is less interest among the 65- to 75-year olds.
Is it a problem to have social media as preferred news sources?
Since a significant portion of younger people prefer to get their news through social media such as Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, it is interesting to reflect on what kind of news they are exposed to – and the quality of the news they encounter on these platforms.
The ‘traditional’ news channels are also present on social media. However, online news often appears in a ‘lighter’ format and might have a catchy headline to attract attention; or an article may be kept short in length in order to keep the attention of users. In addition, algorithms play an important role in deciding what news the users are exposed to.
Social media also allow people without a journalistic background to create or engage with news in a way that was not possible in the past. As a consequence, it can also be used intentionally to spread fake news and misinformation. Despite efforts to identify and remove fake news, false stories are often spread through social media channels.
Millennials and Gen Zs came of age at a time of accelerating growth in the use of online platforms and social media. They rely more on social media channels than on traditional media to keep themselves informed. At the same time, they are less interested in staying updated on news. Is this a serious problem or simply a reflection of being in a digital age?