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Today’s audiences like short video news with personality

Young audiences increasingly prefer short form video for news delivered from individuals and alternative outlets on social platforms.

July 2, 2024 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Influencers, independent journalists, and smaller news outlets sharing news and commentary on social platforms increasingly compete for audience attention with traditional and digital news brands. These “alternative voices” can also provide a place for a diverse array of opinions and perspectives—though the most popular accounts don’t appear to be particularly diverse or alternative, unless the term alternative is simply defined as delivered by social platforms outside of established news brands.

Platforms like TikTok and Instagram offer access to creator tools and global distribution, which helps these accounts reach large audiences. However, measuring the extent of news consumption on social and video networks is complex due to the diverse range of accounts and topics discussed. However, Reuters’ Institute’s new report, Digital News Report 2024, provides a snapshot of the most influential accounts and the balance of attention between alternative news sources and mainstream. The report examines the nature of these alternative voices and their followers and evaluates the reliability of the information and the implications for the marketplace.

Recall of alternative news accounts (58%) surpasses mainstream news brands in the U.S. (42%). This indicates a significant shift toward news creators and influencers. This trend also underscores alternative voices’ growing influence, as well as the continuous evolution of news content and delivery.

Linked to this trend, video storytelling is an increasingly crucial online news source, especially among younger audiences. Short news videos – popular on TikTok and Instagram – are accessed by 66% of respondents each week, while longer formats attract around 51%. Most online news video consumption takes place on social platforms. Audiences favor these platforms for news (72%) over publisher websites, which only attract 22%. This increases the challenges around monetization and connection for traditional news publishers.

Audience and content analysis

Reuter’s report asked respondents to name accounts they follow most closely across six popular platforms—Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Respondents identify Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan as the accounts they follow most closely. Interestingly, the most mentioned (top 10) individual names offer political commentary or chat rather than original newsgathering. Most of the popular content is also partisan, with little or no attempt to present a balanced view. And the entire top 10 list is comprised of white men. Many of these names are hardly “alternative,” as they come with decades of experience in legacy media ― traditional cable or talk radio networks.

Some alternative news brands are comprised of multiple creators, such as the Daily Wire and Blaze TV (conservative), Young Turks, and Medias Touch (progressive). Regardless of their politics, the look is consistent and video-centric. It’s somewhere between a podcast and a TV broadcast – with mostly male hosts talking to mostly male guests.

The nature of some of this content may not appeal to advertisers. As a result, some personalities find other ways to generate revenue, such as appealing directly for donations or selling merchandise. A few, such as Tucker Carlson, are trying out premium subscriptions, providing additional content or networking opportunities for a fee.

Reliability and impact on society

The reliability of information shared by alternative voices is a critical concern. While some independent journalists and creators provide valuable insights and diverse perspectives, others report misinformation and partisan content. The decentralized nature of these platforms makes it challenging to regulate content quality, leading to potential societal impacts, such as increased polarization and the spread of false information.

The rise of alternative news sources and the popularity of individual’s “news” accounts shows a growing audience preference for creators and influencers—even in their consumption of what they define as news. These alternatives claim to offer free expression, positioning themselves against mainstream media, which they accuse of suppressing the truth or serving elite interests.

The insights provided by Reuters’ findings makes evident the popularity of short form video for news among audiences. It also sheds some light on the types of storytelling and storytellers who audiences find most engaging. News media outlets should explore new creative formats and personalities and showcase creators’ individual style and personalities to embrace changing news preferences and engage today’s audiences.

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