Sources and Access to News

This question is becoming more and more complex. People have traditionally sourced the news through television and radio news channels or branded newspapers or magazines. Now we have online channels too, but these are harder to define and categorise. They incorporate both traditional branded media channels as well as non-traditional media such as aggregators and blogs. In recent years we’ve seen the rise of personal and social media channels not just as means of communication but as a source of news too.

It still helps to understand and track how different groups consume television, radio, online and print – but this is no longer enough and in this section we’ve tried to break the categories down further. It’s becoming increasingly important to understand how news brands perform across different platforms, what the relative strengths are of each channel and at what time of day they get most traffic.

Another dimension that we explore in this section is the explosion in the number of devices through which news can now be accessed. Alongside television and radio sets, we now have computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and e-readers – all able to access news content in text, audio, and video. Increasingly in an era of convergence these connected devices can also view live TV channels on high-definition screens, whilst ‘smart televisions’ can access internet content alongside traditional broadcasts. This is the multiplatform, multi-device world that is emerging today. Over the next few years we hope to be able to map how news usage is affected by these changes.

In looking at weekly news use, we can see that television and online are by far the most regularly used sources for all ages and demographics in the UK. Our survey suggests that online is accessed by more people – but it should be noted that our internet-based survey does not take into account the 20% of the UK population who are not online. Factoring this in, TV is likely to be ahead with all groups except the 16–24s.

UK Weekly news access by source

Q3 Which of the following news sources have you used in the last week?

Base UK (n=2173) 16-24 (n=342), over 45 (n=1112)

Indeed it is striking that amongst those surveyed younger people watch far less television news (61%) and access far more online news each week (88%) than the group of over 45s. Only 22% listen to radio news bulletins or programmes compared with 55% of the older group. It is also interesting to note however that many 16–24s say they do read print newspapers and magazines (49%) even if they don’t always pay for them.

At a more granular level, we can also see that, amongst our online sample of news users in the UK, television news programmes and bulletins remain the single most used source but the websites of broadcasters like the BBC and Sky are not far behind.

Weekly news sources breakdown

Q3 Which of the following news sources have you used in the last week?

Base All (n=2173)

TV news bulletins/programmes are used more by older generations and less by younger people whilst the exact opposite is true for websites of newspapers and magazines.

TV news vs newspaper/magazine websites by age

Scroll data area to see more

16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
TV news 51% 52% 61% 71% 79%
Newspaper sites 48% 40% 38% 37% 34%

Looking at different media usage across countries, we see again marked differences in the media mix that is deployed. The US, UK, and Denmark show the greatest enthusiasm for online news, while Germany shows a particularly strong loyalty to printed products (68%). Online news usage in Germany is lowest of our countries at just 61% whilst TV broadcasts draw the vast majority of the population to watch each week (87%). It will be interesting to see if these differences persist or if the Anglo-Saxon model of strong online adoption gains ground in the rest of Europe over time.

Weekly news access by source and country

Q3 Which of the following news sources have you used in the last week?

Base All UK (n=2173) Denmark (n=1002) France (n=1011) Germany (n=970) USA (n=814)

Devices to access the news

In terms of access points, our data show that the computer and television are neck and neck as most important in terms of weekly access – but new internet devices are making a significant impact. Smartphones that connect to the internet have only been around for a few years but already the percentage of people accessing news weekly via a mobile phone in the UK has reached 28%. The tablet is also emerging as a significant device for news consumption at 8%. The impact of these devices is explored in more detail in later sections.

Layering our news absorbed and news light segments on top of the overall sample we can see that heavy news users are more likely to access via computer and other online means. Of our news absorbed group, 23% access news via a tablet device, compared with just 3% of the news light group.

Weekly access by device

Q4a Which of the following have you used to access the news in the last week?

Base UK (n=2173)

Top UK brands for accessing the news: winners and losers

Overall, traditional routes are still used more than online ones. Use of BBC via radio and television is around 10 percentage points higher than via BBC News online. Taking into account this is an internet survey and adjusting for the total UK population would produce an even bigger difference.

Some providers have struggled to make an impact online. ITV is a huge player in television news but has not focused heavily on digital news until now. As a result we find its reach is equivalent to a new online player like MSN.

Traditional vs online routes to news

Q8a/b Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week, via traditional routes (Radio/TV/Print) and via which online means?

Base All (n=2173)

At the other end of the spectrum the Guardian and Telegraph have been the only major news providers to buck the trend of smaller online reach. They have invested heavily in online news and our data show they have attracted significant new audiences in the UK (as well as international ones). In the case of the Guardian, this is an audience almost twice as big as the newspaper one and with a much younger age profile.

Guardian audience – % accessing newspaper vs % accessing online

Q8a/b Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week, via traditional routes (Radio/TV/Print) and via which online means?

Base All (n=2173)

The Guardian’s position strengthens further on new platforms such as the tablet – rising from 10% reach online to 21% on tablet. More generally with this tablet-boost sample we see greater use of online sources. Amongst BBC tablet users, we see that the proportional usage of traditional and online sources is almost the identical (74% vs 73%). The same is true for Sky News (21% vs 20%) and the Daily Mail (18% vs 18%).

It appears that new technology/devices which allow for easy news access online are encouraging the growth of online access. The data also suggest that, if tablet behaviours become the norm, some traditional news brands can expect to end up with a market share not that different from the ones they’ve been used to offline.

Traditional and online usage amongst tablet owners

Q8a/b Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week, via traditional routes (Radio/TV/Print) and via which online means?

Base Tablet owners (n=314)

Aggregators, pure players, blogs, and social media

Our UK survey shows Yahoo! News delivering a weekly audience online of 15%, just ahead of the Daily Mail.

Aggregators and portals

Q8a/b Which, if any, of the following have you used to access news in the last week, via online sources?

Base All (n=2173)

MSN in the UK also achieves a healthy share and is one of the few news sources to attract more women than men.

Blogs, social networks like Twitter and Facebook have also emerged to be seen by some as a source of news – especially for breaking news. The extent of this varies considerably across countries – with new players, aggregators, blogs, and social media playing a far bigger role in the USA than in any other country.

It is interesting to note how traditional news providers dominate online provision in the UK and Denmark whereas in other countries new models of provision have gained more traction. In the United States much of this has been driven by innovation in news provision from the likes of the Huffington Post and Gawker.

In the UK, traditional media organisations like the BBC and the Guardian have been relatively quick to innovate, with developments such as live blogging, social media, and data journalism – leaving little space for new providers. In France the relative weakness of broadcasters online and of the French press has left more space open for new so-called ‘pure players’ as well as aggregators.

Traditional brands vs aggregators vs social media

Q3 Which of the following news sources have you used in the last week?

Base Online Denmark (n=826) UK (n=1778) US (n=704) France (n=777)