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Social networks are overtaking newspapers as news sources in Germany

Social networks such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and, as of today, the Xing industry insiders have overtaken printed newspapers as regularly used news sources for German Internet users this year for the first time. The dynamic is particularly exciting: within a year, the networks have increased 6 percentage points to 31 percent, while the newspapers have lost 9 points and are now only used as a news source by 29 percent of the approximately 50 million adult online users in Germany. Even if a lot of the news in the networks comes from the traditional media, they are less and less perceived as a brand there. This is the result of the Reuters Digital News Report, for which around 2000 Internet users over 18 years of age were interviewed in Germany and the German results of which are processed by the Hans Bredow Institute (PDF).

72 percent of adults continue to use television as a regular source of news, even if the value in the group of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 has fallen significantly since last year. This loss is also reflected in the question of the main news source, where television holds up well with the elderly, but has lost around 10 percent of the network within a year in the group of 18-24 year olds. The radio has to accept slight losses, but it still ranks second.

A similar picture emerges if the provider types are considered, i.e. sources are considered independent of the channel. Television, whether traditionally or online, is losing as a source of news for young people up to the age of 24 as is the case with newspapers. Overall, more and more people are satisfied with the messages that the Facebook algorithm sends them to. The danger of the “filter bubble”, which primarily sends people messages that correspond to their own opinion and has a correspondingly high probability of interaction, is therefore increasing. The development towards journalistic fast food is good for Facebook, but bad for the media and even worse for opinion-forming. (Also worth reading: "Who owns the news consumer?")

The younger the people, the less they are interested in the news

Overall, interest in news appears to be declining among the general population. If 81 percent of people in the 55+ group are still very interested in news, the value in the age group between 18 and 24 is only 54 percent. In the previous year it was 67 percent.

Such a pronounced interest is likely to be a prerequisite for being ready to pay for a subscription. Which of course doesn't mean that people actually have a subscription. When asked whether they had bought a printed newspaper in the past week, 60 percent of the 55+ group answered yes, but only 27 percent among the 18-24 year olds. The significant decline in willingness to pay for printed messages is offset by only slightly increased demand for paid online messages: 11 percent of young people and 6 percent of older people bought digital news content or an app in the past year.

Local, international and political news received the greatest interest in all age groups considered, even if young people as a whole paid significantly less attention to this hard news. According to the survey, they are disproportionately interested in lifestyle, entertainment, celebrities and, comparatively, also in science and technology.

The numbers on social media as an increasingly important news source should be viewed against the background of the education of social media users. In almost all countries, people with a high formal education are overrepresented on social media. Only the elite in Germany are apparently too keen to join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, as OECD data show.

Dr. Holger Schmidt is a sought-after speaker on all topics related to the digitization of business and work. As a business journalist, mostly for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he has been closely involved in the digital transformation for two decades. Today he is a columnist for the Handelsblatt, a lecturer at the TU Darmstadt and a book author.