Irish 18-24s are among the most tech savvy and digitally immersed in Ireland and globally. This generation is digitally native and has a dizzying volume and variety of news at their fingertips. So how are they engaging with news media and what do they think about Irish journalism?
In this year’s report, we want to explore the habits and attitudes of younger news consumers. Young Irish people are heavily embedded in digital media, but what is their engagement with digital news? Among 18-24’s, the main sources of news are mostly digital (71%). They are the most likely to find news via a smartphone (74%). And, unsurprisingly, they the least likely to use traditional sources such as TV as a main source (18%) or radio (6%).
In some areas the disparity with older age groups regarding where and how young people get their news is substantial. In terms of relying on TV, they are much the same as all under 35’s, both 18 per cent. However, 51 per cent of over 55’s use TV is their main source and 16 per cent use radio. And smartphones are the primary device for 38 per cent of over 55’s.
There has been some hope regarding younger people paying for news. It is sometimes used as a signal of potential stability in future online revenues. Some 14 per cent of younger consumers paid for news last year. However, five years ago, only 5 per cent of 18-24’s paid for news, and 10 per cent of 25-34’s. That is an increase of 6 per cent among 18-24’s and an increase of 9 per cent among 25-34’s. Although it must be recognised that among 18-24’s, 24 per cent pay an ongoing subscription, but for 37 per cent another person pays.
In line with the US, UK and the EU, older age groups are far more interested in both news and politics. Irish 18-25 year olds are among the least interested in news with 45 per cent very or extremely interested, compared to 59 per cent in the UK. And they are even less interested in politics, 26 per cent in Ireland, compared to 48 per cent in the UK and 40% in the USA. Although Ireland has had an intensive political period with referendums, presidential elections and Brexit, such differences could be attributed to the more tumultuous internal political environments in both the UK and US.
The survey shows that most people in Ireland are centrist and there does not appear to be a large degree of polarisation. And this is true of younger age groups, 72 per cent of whom are centrist with 18 per cent identifying as left and 10 per cent as right. Comparing the same age groups in the UK, 25 per cent identify as left while 12 per cent identified as right and in the US it is 33 per cent left and 14 per cent right.
This age group are among the wariest digital news consumers. That is, 18-24’s most likely to be concerned about fake news with 69 per cent stating they were concerned about what was real and fake on the internet. They are among the least trusting of the age groups of new via search engines (40%) and social media (56%) and least trusting of news overall (36%).
However, this can also be interpreted as a degree of savviness when it comes to questioning the quality of what they see online. 18-24’s are the most likely to take some form of action regarding what they see online (89%). Among their responses are talking to friends (35%) or relying on more reputable sources (37%), but they were most likely to check multiple sources to verify information (44%).
The survey also offers some insight into young people’s social values. They were the least likely to agree with the idea that immigration is a threat to national culture (27% agree) compared to an average of 38 per cent among older age groups. And they were among the most trusting of politicians being among the least likely to disagree with the idea politicians don’t care what they think (50%) compared to an average of 68 per cent among older age groups.
But what do they think of news content? In terms of tone, 40 per cent of under 34’s find news too negative compared to 31 per cent of over 54’s. The largest generational gap is in how news media is valued for the immediacy of news, with 63 per cent of 18-24’s finding it keeps them up to date compared to 76 per cent of over 55’s. This can in part be explained by the higher number of younger people using social media for news. For content, under 35’s are the most likely to say the news topics are not relevant, 24 per cent of 18-25’s and 35 per cent of 24-35s.
We should be cautious of assuming the patterns among younger age groups will be the habits adopted for life. As our lives change, our access and need for different media can change. Higher disposable income among older age groups means better phones, more gadgets and greater resources to afford both TVs and licences. Similarly, how and why we engage with news evolves as our lives enter new phases, and we take on new responsibilities and interests. Just because fewer younger people use the TV for news or choose this brand over that, it does not necessarily mean they always will.
Younger people, much like everyone else, are getting more news than previous generations have ever have been exposed to. Recent shifts in Irish society have been in part shaped by increased engagement from younger people. It is an old cliché that young people are ignorant of news or politics. Although the engagement is lower than older generations, there is still a substantial percentage interested in it and accessing it daily, and want to see more topics that relate to their lives. Future participation depends on their adaptation of evolving technologies as well as how the news media cover and distribute topics of interest to younger generations.
Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Barthel M., and Shearer E., (2017) The Modern News Consumer News attitudes and practices in the digital era. Pew Research Center
Chadwick, A. & EBSCOhost. (2017). The hybrid media system : politics and power. New York, NY : Oxford University Press
Sattari S., Foster T., Peighambari K., Kordestani A. (2015) Preferences of Young News Consumers: A Conjoint Analysis. In: Kubacki K. (eds) Ideas in Marketing: Finding the New and Polishing the Old. Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science. Springer.