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Social media’s threat to journalism

The gap between “informed” people and the rest is growing fast. In Switzerland, “media-disadvantaged” people make up 43% of the population. It is synonymous with poverty, scarcity and under-information with regard to the access and consumption of traditional media (the written press, radio and TV).


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That is according to the recent Yearbook Quality of the Media 2023 published by the University of Zurich’s Research Centre for the Public Sphere and Society (FÖG, in German).

For example, young adults under the age of 25 consume only seven minutes of news per day, and that is on their mobile phones.

According to the authors of the research published on 30th October, “news journalism is losing its social impact”.

In Switzerland people vote, almost without exception, four times a year, and the populace regularly makes decisions at the ballot box on the big topics of national, cantonal and municipal politics.

According to Philippe Bach, editor-in-chief of the Swiss daily Le Courrier, electoral participation is at 70% among people who make significant use of traditional media (newspapers, radio and television) but drops to 30% among the “disadvantaged” who resort to, at best, entertainment and society news and so-called faits divers.

Falling audiences constitute one of the three problems that threaten journalism globally. The others are the low level of trust in the media and the adverse business environment for media companies, basically the product of a drop in advertising revenue. That is the analysis of the Digital News Report 2023 by the Reuters Institute of Journalism and the University of Oxford.

This report, published in June, brings together data from “six continents and forty-six markets”.

The Digital News Report 2023’s most surprising revelations relate to “the changing nature of social media” due, in part, to a lessening in the use of traditional platforms such as Facebook and the boom of TikTok and other video-based media.

On the other hand, these changes were found to be strongly influenced by the habits of the younger generations who have grown up with these media and who nowadays usually pay more attention to influencers and “celebrities” than to conventional journalists, even when the topic is strictly news.

In the framework of the “media disadvantage” theme, although the Digital News Report 2023 does not put it this way, it recognises that the quantity of people who regularly (or sometimes) avoid reading news is close to record levels: 36% of those surveyed.

It confirms that this group can be divided in two: on the one hand, those who periodically try to avoid all news sources and, on the other hand, those who try to restrict specifically their consumption of news about certain subjects or at particular times.

With regard to news sources, this joint report by Reuters and the University of Oxford highlights that only a fifth (22%) of those surveyed prefer to begin their news journeys with a website or a news app, a decrease of 10 percentage points since 2018. And it underlines that, everywhere, young people prefer to access news through different channels such as social media, search engines and mobile aggregators.

The report also highlights as a trend that Facebook, despite having lost users, has maintained its position as one of the most used forms of social media, but that its influence over journalism is diminishing as it moves its focus away from news.

Moreover, it faces new challenges from established platforms such as YouTube and others which are dynamic and principally focused on the young, like TikTok, a Chinese-owned platform which reaches 44% of people aged 18-24 across all markets and represents 20% of their information sources. Its fastest growth has been seen in parts of the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

As far as news, specifically, is concerned, audiences of platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat admit feeding more on influencers, “celebrities” and social media personalities than on conventional journalists. On Facebook and X (Twitter) the media and reporters still have an important place.

(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: Pixabay

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