Ofcom Report: Public Overwhelmingly Favour Traditional Media As News Source

The public overwhelmingly favour traditional media as their preferred source for news, way ahead of social media which they do not trust to provide them with truthful information, a new report from Ofcom has found.

The ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2018’ found that television, newspapers and radio are favoured over social media as a source that internet users would turn to first for six different types of news they would consider important.

Many internet users are also struggling to correctly identify advertising served by platforms online, the report found, and there is a profound lack of understanding about how advertising is served to internet users across the platforms.    

Despite this and the scandals which have engulfed Facebook and Google’s YouTube, new data from the Advertising Association/Warc published today, found that advertisers are continuing to invest heavily in digital platforms while continuing to withdraw spend from traditional media such as newsbrands and television which the public trust for news and information.

The AA/Warc expenditure report found that internet, mainly Google and Facebook, was up 14.3 per cent in 2017 on 2016 while traditional media sources newsbrands, television and magazines all experienced declines.  

The News Media Association said: “Traditional media provides a clear public benefit providing news and information which the public trust and want to read, driving audiences not just for themselves but also for the digital platforms who use their content to build engagement.

“Yet ad spend by major advertisers including the Government continues to be skewed towards social media at the expense of newsbrands. This situation is untenable and must be addressed if journalism is to have a sustainable future.”

Ofcom reported that newspapers in print and digital, the second most popular source behind television, were cited by 34 per cent of respondents as the best source for giving them all the detailed information, breadth and depth, they needed, compared to just five per cent who cited social media as their preferred source.

For providing key facts about news newspapers, again the second most popular source behind television, were four time more popular than social media as a source, the report found.

Trust in content online remains low. Social media users are more likely than in 2016 to say they have seen something that has upset or offended them on social media/ messaging sites in the past year (55 per cent vs 44 per cent in 2016) but, worryingly, they were less likely to say they have done something about it (55 per cent vs 61 per cent in 2016).

Just two per cent of internet users consider ‘all’ the information they see online to be true – the same for social media users, two per cent of whom consider all the information they see on social media to be true.

The majority of internet users (59 per cent) say they consider ‘some’ of the information they see online to be truthful, followed by 25 per cent who think that ‘most’ of the information is truthful.  This compares to almost two-thirds of social media users (65 per cent) who say that ‘some’ of the information posted on social media sites or apps is truthful, followed by 21 per cent who think that most is truthful, the report found.  

People do not understand how the platforms serve advertising. Just six in ten (58 per cent) of search engine users can correctly identify sponsored links on Google as advertising; that is, they state that the first two results returned by Google, distinguished by the box with ‘Ad’ in it, are adverts.

Less than three in five internet users (58 per cent) are aware of personalised advertising, in that they are aware that some people might see different adverts to those that they see. More than one in five (23 per cent) state that everyone would see the same adverts, and 18 per cent are unsure.