How Do Gen Z and Alpha Engage With News?


As news media loses trust, what do younger audiences turn to for information, particularly during lockdown?

Several surveys have highlighted the ongoing shift in trust that the UK has towards media, particularly when it comes to trusted information on Covid-19.

Survation spoke to over 18s in the UK and found that the BBC remained the most trusted source, with the Guardian, Financial Times and Telegraph close by. Public sector trust was higher for the Scottish Government than England, but local government scored highly and people’s employers were highly trusted with providing information about the pandemic.

Overall, news consumption has increased during the pandemic (in particular TV news and online sources) and whilst individual ‘journalist’ trust doesn’t score as highly as experts and scientist, news outlets have proved a support structure for information during lockdown.

But how are youth audiences engaging with news?

The use of online and social media has increased during lockdown, and WhatsApp groups have grown too – often sharing information and support with groups of friends, family or local networks.

Gen Z have a weaker connection websites and apps and are twice as likely to prefer to access news via social media and Instagram is set to overtake Twitter as a source for news over the coming year, according to Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020.

Under 30s were most likely to use social as a source for news and least likely to use print and TV compared to other age groups, despite an overall uplift in TV across all age groups.

But what social media for news?

In the UK Reuters found that 24% of 18-24s had used Instagram as a source for Coronavirus stories in the previous week, 19% used Snapchat (the highest level of any of the 6 countries surveyed) and 6% used Tik Tok – interestingly, the US saw 11%, Argentina 9% and Germany 8% for Tik Tok and the recent announcement of investment in more educational content for the platform will surely see this as a growing space for information for youth audiences.

Are children engaged with news?

Some data released by Kidscreen found that UK children are asking their parents about Covid-19 from ages 5-7 and by teens more than half of all children sought information themselves with three quarters of 16- to 18-year-olds doing so. It also highlighted the structure of children’s news in the form of CBBC’s Newsround in the UK in comparison to the US.

But with education driving up device time, what children ask versus see differs; further data on what children have explored, whether intentionally or not, will be of use in understanding how they determine what sources are trusted.

One thing is clear, whilst the appetite for news has grown during lockdown, when it comes to Gen Z and Alpha, the sources and format of how they consume news is far more in line with how they search and consume content through the platforms they engage with on a daily basis. A reminder perhaps that it’s not that youth audiences don’t want news content – they just want it where they are.