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In Europe TV and Facebook still rule, TikTok and podcasts are on the rise: A look at EU media habits

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Key takeaways from the Media & News 2022 Eurobarometer survey

In Europe, Eurobarometer regularly publishes public opinion surveys which have been conducted on behalf of the European Commission or other EU Institutions. This has been the case since 1973.

To be honest, when I compare it with the amount of data and all kinds of surveys there are in the US, I still feel like it’s not enough, but we work with what we get, right?

A dedicated Eurobarometer survey – Media & News Survey 2022 – published in July and commissioned by the European Parliament took an in-depth look at media habits of Europeans, trust in different media sources as well as attitudes towards the threat of disinformation.

The survey was published shortly after the annual Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute came out. It’s nice to see it offer some additional information and perspective on news consumption of people living in the EU.

Of course, there is an overview of how much people recall seeing European and international affairs in the news, but let’s be honest, that is less interesting for media makers. Still, 72% of respondents replied that they have recently read, seen or heard something about the European Union. Also, not surprisingly, the further east you go, the more news about the EU there is.

There are also factsheets for every country included, though not all information from the survey is included in them. If you want to find out which social media is popular in your country or how many people claim to pay for news, you have to find that in the main report.

EU media habits: TV is the dominant news source, public is more trusted than private 

Among the following, what media have you used the most to access news in the past 7 days? Firstly? And then? [multiple answers possible]. Source: Media & News 2022 Eurobarometer survey

With 75%, television dominates as the primary news source, particularly for citizens over 55 years old (85%). When looking at the overall results of younger audiences (15 – 24) and how they mostly access news, TV is also at the first place, but social media is right behind, together with YouTube and online news platforms.

European Gen Z also consume more news via podcasts (10%) than older generations (2%). And guess which country scores the highest on news consumption via podcasts? 10% of Slovaks identified podcasts as a media they (also) use most to access news. I’m sorry, but as someone coming from Slovakia and interested in podcasts I had to share this with you.

The three most followed news topics among Europeans are national politics, local news and EU/international affairs. This varies a lot from country to country. Hungarians said they are the most interested in EU/international affairs. In Cyprus and Malta, people are far more interested in local news than anything else and Sweden is probably the only country in the EU where audiences’ interest is mostly evenly split between all of the topics with national news just slightly winning.

Again, people over 55 years old are much more interested in national politics, Gen Z (15 – 24) are the most interested in sports, but other topics are pretty evenly distributed ranging from local news, science and technology to hobbies and lifestyle.

When accessing news online, older generations use mainly the website of the news source, Gen Z mainly through recommendations on social media. Smartphones are by far the most popular for accessing news online, 77% overall, for Gen Z that’s 88%.

As the Digital News Report showed and this Eurobarometer survey confirms, email newsletters are the most popular among people above 55 (15%). Still, newsletters are used by younger generations as well, just not that much (7%).

When it comes to paying for news, the Eurobarometer survey shows little difference among age groups. Rather, there are bigger differences culturally in various countries. People in Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia are least likely to pay for news online. People in Estonia, Ireland, Luxemburg, Finland and Sweden are most likely to pay for news online.

In your experience, which of the following makes it most likely you open an online news article? [multiple answers possible]. Source: Media & News 2022 Eurobarometer survey

In the Eurobarometer survey, there was an intriguing question asking respondents to share what makes them open a news story or an article. Among all age groups, the title was the most relevant, followed by the trust in the news outlet.

This is no surprise to anyone working in news, but it’s always good to check whether anything changed or not. For Gen Z, more than for any other age group, the title also has to be “catchy” (interpret however you like) and the cover image is also almost as important.

Facebook leads for 25+, Instagram and YouTube for Gen Z

Which of the following online social media or online platforms have you used in the last 7 days? [multiple answers possible]. Source: Media & News 2022 Eurobarometer survey

A majority of Europeans use Facebook (67%), WhatsApp (61%) and YouTube (56%). No surprises there.

Among 15-24 year-olds, Instagram is the most used social media platform (79%). TikTok (49%) and Snapchat (43%) are also common among them, but not as much as Facebook and WhatsApp. Nevertheless, TikTok’s and Snapchat’s shares are significant.

Source: Media & News 2022 Eurobarometer survey

When asked for which purposes they used social networks in the last 7 days, 49% replied it was to send direct messages to friends and family (personal communication), then to follow the news and current events (45%) and to follow what friends, family or colleagues are doing (41%).

Unsurprisingly, European Gen Z use social media mainly for entertainment (59%), sending messages (54%), following what friends are up to (47%) and then news (44%).

Over a quarter of respondents (28%) think that, in the past seven days, they have very often or often been exposed to disinformation and fake news.

Respondents in Bulgaria are overall the most likely to reply that they have often been exposed to disinformation and fake news in the past seven days, with 55% estimating they have been ‘very often’ or ‘often’ exposed.

Meanwhile, respondents in the Netherlands are the least likely to say so (3% ‘very often’ and 9% ‘often’ responses).

A majority of Europeans feel confident they can recognise disinformation and fake news: 12% feeling ‘very confident’ and 52% ‘somewhat confident’. The level of confidence in distinguishing between real news and fake news decreases with age and increases with level of education.

David Tvrdon

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission.