Instagram could become the main news source for young people.

Reuters finds changes in the way younger users consume the news.

delighted female friends on a phone with a laptop

Monday, 29 June, 2020

Extra, extra.

There’s no doubt that Instagram has overtaken Twitter and Facebook as most popular with younger users. Though less than two decades into social media as we know it, it’s purpose is shifting.

Last year Ofcom found that half of adults get their news from social media. A new report has found that Instagram is likely to overtake Twitter as the main news source for young people.

The report, by Reuters’ Institute Digital News, looked at the changing ways in which people are using social media. One of the results of the report was the discovery that 11% of people now use Instagram for news.

This statistic is for people across all age demographics. However coupled with other findings of the report, it forms the basis for prediction on news consumption.

Loss of trust.

The report shows that in general people are losing trust and showing less engagement with traditional news outlets. This lack of trust and engagement is particularly prevalent with young people. Young people in particular are shown to be moving to alternative sources for news, including social networking platforms.

Due to the rise in visual based social media platforms, people are consuming the news more often via visual content. The Reuters report suggests that Instagram stories and live features seem to have influenced user behaviour. And while the report isn’t a scientific study, it can act as a barometer for media consumption. 

Overtaking Twitter.

The report states that 11% of people use Instagram for news. At a glance this doesn’t really sound very impressive, does it? But it’s important to consider that it’s almost as much as Twitter. Coupled with the rate at which Instagram is outpacing Twitter for younger users, it’s almost certain to rise dramatically.

Using these indicators, the report predicts that in 2021 Instagram will have overtaken Twitter as a news source for young people.

According to Hootsuite, Instagram has a billion users, whereas Twitter still ‘only’ has a monthly average of 330 million users. So it’s not hard to see how the Reuters report makes these predictions.

Still number one.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, Facebook is still top dog as a non news outlet news source. The report found that 36% of people use Facebook to find the majority of their news information.

YouTube, which was established first, comes in second with 21% of users finding their news there. WhatsApp also beats Instagram and Twitter with 16% of people saying they get their news from WhatsApp.

F*ke n*ws.

Facebook and WhatsApp have been in the news for the proliferation of fake news being spread on the platforms. Facebook has come under the most fire as they are a public platform which should be able to regulate content.

However fake news being spread via WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service, is more difficult to tackle. Should anyone be regulating user’s private messages, even if they are being used to spread dangerous mistruths?

Overall the lack of trust in traditional media outlets is the worrying root issue. Newspapers employ fact checkers, so are (generally) more responsible. People are unwittingly getting their news from unverified sources is a dangerous trend which platforms should tackle.

Natalie Dunning author picture


Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.