Women, younger users now use social media for ‘breaking news’


UK communications and media regulator OFCOM has come out with another mammoth piece of research, this time the international communications market report, covering the UK, US, Australia, France, Italy and Germany.

Some (mainly about Britain being a national of online shopaholics ) of it has already been covered in the mainstream press, so I’ve tried to dig out ten findings that didn’t get so much of an airing.   These include ones that look at how social media has replaced traditional media as a news source

1 – Ofcom’s research confirms Forrester’s earlier claims that social media is reaching saturation point.  78% of American, 75% of Australian and 70% of UK Internet users have set up social media profiles.

2 – Not surprisingly, Facebook is the social site most are familiar with.   In the US, 89% of social media users are on Facebook, with Twitter a distant 2nd on 24%.    In the UK, the figures are 83% and 22%.   Surprisingly in the UK Friends Reunited (remember them?)  still gets a strong showing

3 – As you would expect, younger social media users visit those sites more frequently than older users.    In the UK, 68%, in the US 69% and in Australia 61% of 18-24 year old social media users go online 2+ times a day.   This compares to 26% of 45-64 year olds in the UK, 28% in the US and 29% in Australia who access social media.

4 – Does social media use reduce traditional media use?   For a minority it does.   In the UK 14% and in the US 10% claim to now watch less TV because of online social use.  However, 18% of British social media users and 21% of Australian social media users say they read print newspapers less.

Those stats can be read in a number of different ways.  There is no doubt that print circulations are in terminal decline, the UK nationals losing the equivalent of Glasgow in sales over the past year.

At the same time, there is evidence that integrating social media into TV programming and promotions has a small boost for overall ratings.

5 – In the various markets surveyed by Ofcom, between 1/5 and 1/3 of social media users don’t change their privacy settings.   In the UK, the % that leave them be is 30%, in Australia it is 28% and in the US 26%

6 – Ofcom’s research again proves that social media is more female than male dominated.      In the UK 49% of female and 32% of male social media users regularly update their profiles.   In the US, the figures are 51% and 37% and in Australia 42% and 31%

7 – Male and female behaviour is also different on social channels.   Across all markets, women are more likely to use social media “to see what other people are saying and doing.”    In the UK, 63% of women and 51% of men use social media in this way, while in the US the figures are 71% women and 57% men.

8 – Just as social media may have caused some users to leave traditional media, more and more now use it as a primary news source.

In the UK, 51% of 18-24 year olds and 37% of 25-34 year olds use social channels for breaking news.    Again, women are different than men.   While 43% of British women on social media find out about breaking news on these sites, for UK men the % is 37%.

9 – OFCOM’s research debunks the myth that social media use cuts you off from the real world.     A third of British (34%) and Australian (32%) 18-24 year olds now engage more in their community.   In Italy and Germany, over 4/10 younger social media users are more active.

10 – Most social media users distrustful of what they see:   Finally a finding that is slightly at odds with an earlier OFCOM stat about trust in social media, more users are distrustful as opposed to trustful about what they see on social sites.


However, there is not surprisingly a lot of variation by age here, with the under 45s being twice as likely to trust what they see on social channels compared to the over 55s.


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