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How people in the UK are accessing news: 6 key findings

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Ofcom have released their annual report into news consumption in the UK, aiming to inform an understanding of how people in the UK access news, and how this is changing over time.

The 122-page report can be accessed here, but we at WNiP have picked out the most interesting findings for you, from the most widely-read newsbrands, increasing engagement with news on social media, and why magazines are the most trusted way to consume news.

1: Circulation of national newspaper titles has decreased 52.5% over the past eight years

National newspaper circulation in the UK has decreased from 22 million in 2010 to 10.4 million in 2018, a decline of 52.5%. The National Sunday titles have suffered a slightly steeper decline than the National Daily titles, dropping from 10.3 million in 2010 to 4.9 million in 2018, but the latter still has a meagre circulation of 5.5 million today, compared to 10.1 million over eight years ago.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

But when it comes to the actual print newspapers, the leaders have remained largely unchanged, although some have seen declines since 2018. The Daily Mail remains the most popular print paper for 30% of UK adults, followed by the Sun at 21%.

Five of the 12 brands listed have actually managed to increase their readership between 2018 and 2019, according to the survey respondents. The Sun, The Guardian, The Times, ‘i’ and the Financial Times have all seen single-percentage gains in the number of people claiming to get the newspaper daily.

It is worth noting that 23% of print newspaper readers use daily free-sheets: namely the Metro and Evening Standard which are distributed at train and bus stations in cities around the UK. 

2: The Guardian is the most widely-read UK digital newspaper

When it comes to digital news however, the leaderboard shifts. The Guardian is the most widely-read digital newspaper title with over 5.2 million weekly readers; ahead of the Daily Mail with 4.1 million readers, and the Daily Telegraph with 1.8 million readers. This is despite a relatively low print circulation, when compared to titles like the Daily Mail or The Times.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

This wide UK readership online has gone some way towards helping the Guardian break-even for the first time in 20 years.

3: TV is the most-used platform for almost all types of news

Over half of all adults use television to follow UK news, whilst 44% use it for breaking news. Celebrity news is the only exception, with just 13% of people using TV to access it, compared to 21% who use social media.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

When it comes to overall news consumption, television is still the most popular platform, with three-quarters of people saying they use it, although this is less than the 79% who used it in 2018.

The internet unsurprisingly is the next most popular platform, with 66% of UK adults saying they used it for news in 2019 – a figure which includes social media and mobile browsing.

But there are growing gaps in how different generations access news. TV is heavily skewed by the 65+ age range, with 94% of that group using it to access news, but the internet is by far the most popular way to get news among 16-24 year olds, and those from an ethnic minority background.

4: Social media is on the rise as a place to find news

Despite various scandals with social media platforms over the past few years, they continue to grow as a way for people to access news, with 49% of respondents saying that they now use social media platforms for news in 2019. This is an increase on 44% in 2018.

When it comes to the most popular places to find news, Facebook comes in first place, with 73% of people using it for news. There is then a significant gap between it and Twitter at 33%. 

However, there are three platforms which have significantly increased their share over the past 12 months. WhatsApp has seen the largest growth, from 22% of people using it for news in 2018 to 30% in 2019.

But Instagram and Snapchat have also seen similar jumps, showing that their appeal for newsbrands to reach new audiences isn’t dimming.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a shift in how people find news on Facebook. In 2018, 52% of people got news directly from publishers in their feeds. But now that has reduced to 47%, with an increasing number of people finding news from friends and family. This is likely to be a direct result of algorithm changes made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the news feed last year.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

On the positive side, Ofcom has observed that actions taken across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are up significantly in 2018, from making comments to sharing, retweeting, and clicking on articles. This trend is reflected both across posts directly from news organisations, and stories that friends and family share. 

5: The BBC is still the primary news source, but is decreasing in popularity

When it comes to the top sources of news, BBC One is still in first place, with 58% of people using it to get news, followed by ITV at 40%. Although BBC One may still be the most-used news source, other BBC stations like the BBC News Channel and BBC Two have also seen a decrease in use for news since 2018.

However, in third place is Facebook, which is used by 35% of adults. This hasn’t increased a great deal from 33% in 2018, but is a sign of people’s growing dependency on social media as a news source.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

6: One in 10 adults in the UK consumes news via magazines

11% of UK adults claim to use magazines for news. But these figures are decreasing for the four major news magazine brands; Time, The Economist, The Week and Private Eye, with all but The Economist showing drops in those claiming to read them between 2018 and 2019.

However, trust in news magazines far outstrips trust in any other media outlet. 82% of respondents to the survey ranked magazines as trustworthy, compared to 71% for TV and 67% for radio. Social media is at the bottom of the trust list, with just 38% putting their faith in news they find on social platforms.

Graph via Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK: 2019 report

In fact, magazines scored highly across a range of attributes, from being high quality to being good at offering a range of opinions, and helping people make up their mind on a particular issue.

The less frequent publishing schedule of news magazines, when compared to daily newspapers, can make readers feel that articles are more considered, and are less likely to contain inaccuracies as a result of a tight deadline.