Traditional media vs social media

Who can you trust? We take a look at traditional media vs social media


Where do you go to get your news? Do you trust traditional media outlets more than social media platforms to receive accurate information? Or do you think the mainstream media is biased and fails to report what is really happening objectively and impartially?

The UK has a population of just over 65 million and we consume an astonishing amount of news via both traditional sources (print, broadcast, online) and social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook.

Around 38 million people actively use social media with Twitter having around 15m users in the UK, 65% of which are under the age of 34, while Facebook is used by 84% of all UK adults. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all these social users are on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to consume news. They’re primarily sharing their thoughts, opinions, photos, videos etc, or following brands and celebrities they’re interested in. Therefore, news isn’t the primary reason for using social media. Meanwhile, Radio 4’s Today programme has a weekly reach of 7.66million people. Yes, that’s less than the number of UK Twitter users, but these people tune in John Humprys et al specifically for news and information.

However, with social media there is potential to greatly influence the public simply because over half the UK’s population could be exposed to news via their social accounts.

Ultimately it’s too simplistic to compare the quality and accuracy of news from the traditional outlets and social media platforms because all the traditional media will have social accounts, so while people are getting news from social media, they are doing so via established media outlets. For example, BBC News UK Twitter account has 8.83 million followers.

And while newspaper circulations may be falling, their collective social presence is still very high – The Guardian has 6.8 million Twitter followers; The Daily Telegraph 2.33m; The Financial Times 5.81m and The Daily Mail Online 2.14m.

So the issue is not about which is a more reliable platform for news and information but trusting the source of that news. If the social media accounts of established outlets like Financial Times, Sky News or Reuters are reporting a story, it’s more likely to be accurate than the Twitter account of some bloke in Darlington who uses an Egg as his profile picture.

Where social media is truly ahead of traditional media outlets is the speed at which it can spread news. If a major story breaks or an incident happens, chances are you’ll hear about it from social media, or from someone who read it on social media.

Finally, UKOM’s analysis of comScore data shows that the mainstream media still has a huge role to play in bringing news and content to UK adults. The analysis of data from June 2017 looked at the percentage reach of various media to an audience aged 18 and over. The reach would have been down to a combination of stories posted on social media with links to sites, as well as people who directly visit the sites: 

  • BBC News 77.3%
  • The Sun Online 66.7%
  • 63.1%
  • 58.5%
  • 56.1%
  • 54.1%
  • 52.4%
  • Sky News 36.1%
  • 29.5%
  • 28.6%
  • 15.1%
  • 7.0%

So the issue isn’t social media vs traditional media, but trusting news from established, reputable and legitimate traditional AND social sources, not information from unverified sources.


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