Just as political news is essential to a well-functioning democracy, a strong and vigorous business press is necessary for the efficient functioning of markets and the economy. Monitoring financial information is vital for individuals as they take more responsibility for their own financial future in an era of austerity.
Interest in economic and business news by country
News about the economy is given a higher ranking in the UK than in all the other countries surveyed, with the exception of the US. So far the financial crisis has had a greater impact on US and UK household finances than in the European countries we surveyed, despite the looming Euro crisis – and the latter also have a bigger cushion because of the existence of stronger welfare states.
In all the countries surveyed, there is a significant difference in the level of interest in news about the economy (which gets the highest rating of any specialist news area) and news about business and finance, which is rated much lower, with only one in five people saying that is important. Interest in business news seems to be significantly lower in France (where it is only one in ten), and higher than average in Denmark.
Interest in the economy and in business news
More than 4 in 10 of our UK sample say the news about the economy is important to them. This group is broadly similar to the population as a whole, with equal numbers of men and women, and equal numbers from all social classes. Their media consumption patterns are also similar to the norm, with television their main source of news, and they are heavy readers of the tabloid press, such as the Mail, the Mirror, and the Sun. However, young people are far less interested in economic news than the older groups. This may be because young people have fewer financial responsibilities, such as mortgages; or it may be that older people have more financial stress, or are more worried about retirement.
In contrast, business news is a minority interest with only one in five people rating it as important. This group tends to be disproportionately male and they are more likely to be in the higher social classes. The age differences are far less marked – suggesting that this group is taking an interest, and perhaps planning for their financial future, at an earlier age. Those who thought business news important also had a different view of what other areas of the news mattered, with fewer citing entertainment, sports, or local news as important, while more were interested in politics, science and technology, and international news. They were more likely to be readers of the broadsheet press, especially the Telegraph and The Times (but not the Guardian).
Interest by age and social class
Interest in economic and business news increases with age and social class
Base All (n=2173)
Keeping up with financial matters generally
The Reuters Institute survey also asked a series of broader questions on how important it was to keep up with financial matters generally. This is one of the key indicators of financial capability developed by the Financial Services Authority and first surveyed in 2005.
Importance of financial matters generally
Most people agreed that it was important to keep up with financial news (82%), while 28% said it was ‘very important’. Among people aged 16–24, an astounding three times as many men as women said it was very important. But by the time people reached 55, the difference had completely disappeared.
One-third of the population looks for financial information either daily or several times a day, probably many more than before the financial crisis.1 Again, age and gender differences are very important: four times as many young men as young women looked for financial information daily, but by age 55+ the difference was 5:3 (48% of men and 31% of women). Those interested in business news, and those who were categorised as news absorbed, search for information even more frequently, with more than half of the latter looking daily or several times at day. In contrast, one-quarter of casual news users rarely or never look for financial information.
Keeping up with financial news
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|Frequency||All||News Absorbed||Mainstreamers||News Light|
|Several times a day||9%||21%||12%||0%|
|Once a day||24%||36%||28%||14%|
|Several times a week||29%||25%||31%||20%|
|Once a week||16%||13%||16%||19%|
|2-3 times month||7%||3%||5%||11%|
|Once a month||4%||2%||3%||10%|
|I don’t keep up||9%||–||5%||20%|
Base All (n=2173)
Sources of financial information
Finally, we asked about the sources that people used to find financial information. Older groups were just as likely as young people to say the internet was one of their main sources of financial information. But young people were far less likely to use either television or newspapers for this purpose. Men were more likely to use the internet than women (59% vs 47%), while women were more likely to talk with friends and family (19% vs 31%). Young people used social media more (9% 16–20 vs 2% 55+), but in general this was not a major source of financial information – perhaps reflecting the British reluctance to talk about money matters publicly.
The group who are interested in business news are big consumers of digital financial news. Nearly half (47%) used smartphones, tablets, and other devices, compared to 40% in the wider sample. And 69% search the internet for financial information, compared to 53% overall. They were also nearly twice as likely (9% vs 16% on radio and 12% vs 22% on TV) to listen to personal finance programmes on television and radio, and read the business pages of newspapers (18% vs 38%). Interestingly, they were less likely to use personal contacts with friends and family to get financial information, and no more likely to seek advice from a bank or adviser (18% vs 21%).
The large and diverse range of sources that people used, and the increase in both internet and face- to-face contacts – particularly compared to 2005 – suggests there may have been some decline in trust in traditional media sources since the financial crisis – something which is backed up by other research.2
Sources of financial information
- See the essay by Steve Schifferes, Austerity News: The Financial Crisis and the Digital Revolution, for further details of the comparison between this survey and the 2005 FSA research. ↩
- Steve Schifferes, ‘Trust-Meltdown for Business Reporting’, British Journalism Review (June 2012): http://www.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/153245/Trust-meltdown-for-business-journalism-Steve-Schifferes-BJR.pdf. ↩