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What’s the story for people who get their news via social?

 

With record numbers of people now getting their daily news from social media – and trusted outlets such as The Guardian and BBC pivoting to provide content for TikTok and Snapchat – coverage of major stories will look very different depending on how and where you receive it.

So no matter whether you’re reading about the war in Ukraine, Partygate, the cost of living crisis or Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding, is it the medium that matters?

We asked four Democracy team members to road test a different social platform each.

 

Snapchat

Collette Reid (Age 23)

Snapchat has evolved from a platform that once only allowed you to connect with friends via picture messages, into an app that keeps users up to date on current events, pop culture, and much more. Snapchat ‘discover’ is, essentially, a tailored news feed for users. On it, you’ll be supplied with content in a story format from news publishers such as Daily Mail (15.2 million subs), The Sun (1.9 million subs), alongside content from influencers and brands. The platform allows you to subscribe to your desired entertainment news channels, giving you fresh content at your fingertips. 

 

With 50% of Snapchat users being under 25 years-old, the articles and the modern methods used to present them, are all about engaging this target audience. This is also evident through looking at the likes of The Guardian (161k subs), which produces ‘mini series’ videos, with current titles including ‘Here’s why I don’t agree with Billie Eilish’ and ‘How I traded up from a hairpin to a house’. Quite the contrast to its headline news article online, speaking on the tragedies in Ukraine. 

 

If you are looking for an educational and insightful platform that informs you on real-world current affairs, I would suggest looking elsewhere. This platform is a fun and uplifting place, catering to young adult gossipers who like to get their daily dose of what’s hot and what’s not. So, if you’re like me and want to know what Kim Kardashian wore on Saturday night, you’ve come to the right place!

 

TikTok

Campbell Hoinville (Age 22)

A quote in March 2022 on The Drum said that ‘TikTok has evolved to become a primary source of news for gen Zers’.

It is certainly a quicker way of receiving news, compared to reading it in a print paper or watching TV. However, sometimes details can get left out of the stories on TikTok, due to the nature of short form video content. I also noticed that TikTok tends to be a space for less serious news and content. Alongside stories on Ukraine were clips from celebs on red carpets and even various food reviews. Something for everyone, I guess.

I was surprised by how many people are following certain newspapers on the platform. For example, the Manchester Evening News has 67.1k, the Daily Mirror 41.6k,The Sun 959.4k, Daily Star 36.3k and The Guardian 11.3k. With few if any Gen Zers bothering to read newspapers or watch TV news, this makes what TikTok is doing a really important way of keeping a new generation informed about their world.

 

Instagram

Ashleigh Williams (Age 27)

In the land of edited, filtered visual and video content, there is distinctly less news being posted than on alternative social platforms. On Sunday, The Independent’s 656k followers didn’t receive any story or grid content, but by 9 am the same day, 19 national and international stories had been shared to its timeline on Facebook. 

The Guardian has a 5.1 million audience on Insta and featured two posts on its feed across the weekend. On Saturday it uploaded a grid carousel on artist and activist Laetitia Ky turning herself into art, creating hair sculptures to tackle taboos. Sunday’s post was a clip of a video on Ukrainian refugees left stranded as they tried to navigate the UK visa process. Both have a clear call to action at the end of the caption – click the link in the bio for more information.

For the majority of the weekend, the Daily Mail’s Instagram didn’t share any news content with its 1.5 million followers, but minutes after midnight it pushed out coverage around the Grammys and all the showbiz news to come out of the ceremony. The Daily Star chose competitions on its stories as a route to engagement – with one of the top prizes being a Henry Hoover! 

The Daily Mirror had a different approach, running posts from its ‘NextGen’ series. NextGen brings young people together to tell their stories to an audience of millions. The content was featured around trends but through the eyes of a younger audience including a carousel post on the ‘10 things I wish I knew about money at 18’.

 

Facebook

Chantelle McKeever (Age 24)

Facebook remains a stronghold for traditional publishers as this is where they have their biggest reach. An example is The Guardian, which has an audience of 8.4 million here. 

When it comes to content, more is more on Facebook – publishers post very regularly throughout the day, you can generally expect three to four new stories every hour regardless of who you follow. Compare this to Instagram, where The Sun typically posts one or two stories per day.

A feature I enjoy with Facebook articles is the caption above the article link that gives a brief insight into what the story is about, instead of being drawn in by a clickbait headline you can use the caption to decide if the story will be of interest. However, outlets such as the Daily Star and The Sun often seize the opportunity to use this to include juicy quotes to entice people to click through to their online site. 

By delivering a conveyor belt of news, Facebook is almost guaranteeing audience engagement. If you don’t like the latest story, wait 10 minutes and another one will come along. The comments section available on every Facebook page encourages the audience to engage and tag others which drives traffic. This combined with the option to share the story to your own page for your friends viewing secures a high reach. 

While often feeling overwhelmed by the constant reel of stories, I felt very informed using Facebook as my main news source and was happy with the quality of the pieces. 

 

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