Credit by Audrey Schomer
Among US teens, social media has overtaken traditional mediums for news consumption, including TV, print, and online. Overall, more than half (54%) of US teens ages 13-17 say they get news from social media, compared with 41% who get news reported by news organizations in print and online, and 37% who say they get news on TV, per a Common Sense Media survey.
YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are the most discussed social apps in terms of news consumption, but Instagram could become a meaningful channel for reaching digital-native audiences. Half (50%) of teens say they get their news from YouTube, while 54% say they get news from other social sites, per the survey. But Instagram is now the most-used social platform among teens, with 84% of US teens saying they use the platform at least once a month, per Piper Jaffray.
Instagram's visual nature — trafficking in image and video posts — will meet the preferences of younger news consumers. Social — and visual-dominant platforms, in particular — could become a growing place for teens to engage with news or other fact-based content. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of teens say that "seeing pictures and video showing what happened" gives them the best understanding of major news events, while just 36% said they'd prefer to read or hear facts about what happened.
Instagram could also become an increasingly meaningful news distribution platform because it allows young people to openly engage with other users via the comment section. Instagram comments allow users to engage both with the original poster and with users who discover similar interests, per The Atlantic. Rising engagement in the comments could help news organizations to create stickier experiences among young news consumers, who view posts not just as places to passively consume news, but as venues to actively and interactively engage with it and others. For example, 16-year-old Anjali Kanda runs a news-focused Instagram account @brown.politics, said that, "With the comment section on our posts, I leave it open and let followers have discussions with each other." Despite having just 994 followers, one of Kanda's posts about a fire at Brazil's National Museum generated 17.2k likes and 413 comments.
News organizations or even individuals can build new, younger audiences by launching native brands on social. In general, teens gravitate more toward personalities for news on social than they do news organizations: 60% of teens who get news from YouTube and social media sites say they are more likely to get it from celebrities, influencers, and personalities than news organizations on those platforms, per the survey.
But launching a social native brand, or investing in popular personalities in a way similar to TV news or even podcasting, could help legacy publishers change that dynamic. For instance, in December 2017 Bloomberg launched TicToc, a social news network native to Twitter — one of the first instances of a legacy publisher doing so. Within the first 12 months, TicToc topped 500k followers, which has since grown to 772k, generating 54.4 million views in April 2019, per Tubular Labs.
TicToc has diversified its distribution to other social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp, but Instagram is TikTok's second-most-popular platform in terms of views after Twitter, with 8.7 million in April. Further, the vast majority of TicToc's audience base is young, or younger than the legacy news brand: Ninety percent of the TicToc audience is ages 21-44, younger and broader than Bloomberg's typical cohort.