Tuesday 16 June 2020 3:45 pm

Instagram likely to 'overtake Twitter' as a source of news

Instagram is set to overtake Twitter as a source of news, new research has shown, as public trust in traditional media continues to nosedive.

The use of the photo-sharing platform as a news source has doubled to 11 per cent since 2018 and looks likely to overtake Twitter over the next year, a report by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute released today found. 

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“Instagram’s become very popular with younger people”, said Nic Newman, lead author of the report. “They really respond well to stories that are told simply and with visual images”.

Stand-out visual stories in recent months, such as climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and coronavirus, have all seen a spike in engagement on the platform.

It comes as welcome news for Facebook, which owns the photo-sharing app, after Australian authorities yesterday pushed ahead with controversial plans to make the social media platform pay for news content.

Shares in Facebook rose 2.4 per cent to $238 at market open this morning.

Social media

It comes as younger generations are increasingly turning to social media during the pandemic, as trust and interest in traditional media outlets continues to decline.

Two thirds of under-35 year olds in the UK said they got their news from social media during lockdown, compared to just 12 per cent from newspapers and magazines. Most notably, almost a quarter of 13-24 year olds in the UK relied on Instagram as a source of information about Covid-19 during the first month of lockdown, the Reuters report found.

“Social media may be helping to spread false and misleading information, but it has also supported people at a time of anxiety and isolation and provided an effective way to amplify reliable information,” authors of the report said.

Trust in traditional media

Meanwhile, trust in the news has fallen 20 per cent over the past five years, Newman and his colleagues said. “Even the most trusted brands like the BBC are seen by many as pushing or suppressing agendas, especially over polarising issues like Brexit.” 

Just 28 per cent of people in the UK said they trust “most news most of the time”, down from 40 per cent last year, and down from 50 per cent in the months preceding the 2016 referendum.

The steep slump has coincided with funding cuts at almost every major news outlet, and strong criticism over media coverage of leading issues such as the Labour leadership, and more recently, Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown.

As a result, Britain now ranks below the likes of the US and Hong Kong when it comes to public trust in the media.

Polling for the Reuters Institute showed that the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary spike in trust in the early stages of lockdown, but warned that any “trust halo” for the media may be short-lived. 

Misinformation 

The report added that the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis “reinforced the need for reliable, accurate journalism,” but “also reminded us how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation”.

Conspiracy theories that proliferated during the pandemic included swiftly-rebutted claims that the virus was either an MI6 creation or related to the UK’s 5G network.

Read more: Public trust in UK government’s coronavirus response continues to fall

A survey led by clinical psychologists from the University of Oxford last month, meanwhile, showed that more than four in 10 people believed China created the coronavirus as a bioweapon to control the West.   

“The next 12 months will be critical in shaping the future of the news industry,” said Newman. “Many news organisations go into this period clearer than ever about the value of their product even if the immediate outlook looks uncertain.”

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