Drawing Conclusions from Ofcom – The London Economic

By Stuart Buchanan, Junior Broadcast Executive at 4mediarelations

Media, Broadcast report

Today (Wednesday 25th July 2014) Ofcom released the findings of their ‘News consumption in the UK report’, which highlights some key issues on the changing face of news access across Great Britain.

Most importantly, across all age groups, ‘Internet/Apps’ have stretched just ahead of Radio and Newspapers (41 per cent, compared to 32 per cent in 2013), with only TV (75 per cent) outstripping online new sources, but even this is down from 2013 (78 per cent). These numbers are, as you’d expect, a lot higher amongst 16-24 years olds than over 55s.

Print news consumption has stalled at 40 per cent, meaning online news outlets have equalled and slightly surpassed their hard-copy brethren for the first time ever. Whilst this might seem like the expected standard in 2014, adding this to a few of their other findings makes for a couple of interesting theories.

Sixteen per cent of people said they use the BBC (across all formats) as their only output of news with 52 per cent declaring the BBC as their ‘most important’ news source. Whilst commercial radio outlets’ already smaller share of the news audience has shrunk even more; from 11 per cent in 2013 to nine per cent this year.

Amongst 16-24 year olds, 40 per cent use mobile phones as their prime viewing platform, tenfold the amount of over 55s (four per cent). Mix all of this together and one possible conclusion is that older audiences are more inclined to actively seek out their news at a time that suits them whilst younger audiences are more likely to passively soak-up their day-to-day affairs, checking their news apps following push notifications or 140 character summaries on Twitter with links.

Elder audiences also have a keener eye/ear for current affairs news, with only 40 per cent of 16-24s claiming an interest, compared to 68 per cent of over 55s. This semi-explains the drop in listenership for commercial radio news as they, mostly, draw national stories from Sky’s IRN service, which has a 22 per cent share of its own. This can lead to ‘cookie-cutter’ news broadcasts that lack a sense of local ownership; obviously not the case for all commercial stations, but the stats don’t lie.

There is also the suggestion that the BBC’s dedication to impartiality seems to remain somewhat trusted amidst the Great British public, which kind of makes sense. For the most part, each regional BBC station has a dedicated news team and shows throughout the day which promote news heavily as their ‘bread and butter’, compare this to the likes of Heart or Capital etc., with Sky-heavy news, daytime shows dedicated to entertainment and ‘non-stop music’.

There does seem to be a trend for ‘what you’re used to’ – radio, TV and newspapers are much higher with the older age groups than younger – but at the same time, online sources are growing across all age groups. The best reason for this would be format-skewing coverage, something the BBC seems to do very well, specifically in its Sport department, pulling an audience from the printed word to mobiles, tablets and online coverage without changing what they’re used to via familiar-looking apps for Sport, News, World Service and the like.

Perhaps the best summary for Ofcom’s report is simply that the world is willing to consider a change to the expected norm, it’s just going to take some time.

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