This morning we had the usual type of question from John Humphries on Radio 4’s Flagship news programme Today. Talking about young people and how they access news and politics, the question was framed in asking what damage social media was doing to teenagers. The presumption of damage is a pervading theme in the traditional media, despite those media using social channels to attract viewers and readers.
This is a traditional stance. In the early 1900s radio and records were seen as a threat. Television was going to destroy the fabric of society in the 50s and 60s, so much that the time on air was limited. It is only later that people started to realise that television was the greatest educational tool ever invented.
So in the 2017 UK Election, the number of young people voting increased substantially. Their level of engagement with politics has increased dramatically, yet less than 5% get their news from newspapers. In the US, research shows that 50% of 18-29-year-olds get their news online. Social media has increased the engagement of young people with the world they live in, not the reverse. The internet informs people in a manner that was never before possible. Rather than getting a news story from one source people get various angles on stories, from the left to the right, and can make up their own minds.
In the UK 8 out of 10 adults now use the internet on the go – that is on their mobile devices. They are getting the news in their pocket whenever they want it, not when the media channels become available. The news channels are now managed by the consumer, not the channel owners and managers.
So what does this all mean to marketers? The social channels are becoming more influential. Their importance in disseminating information is now central to the modern age. Local newspapers are getting huge amounts of their traffic from Facebook and Twitter when people click on links from headlines. The BBC uses social channels for engaging people on news programmes and entertainment shows.
This means that the advertising opportunities are growing. More time spent on the social channels, which are seen as important, not frivolous in the lives of the users. Advertising and marketing that is targeted correctly, will be more effective on a channel that delivers a range of content from serious news to friends updates.
The sneering of the John Humphries and his like is out of date, out of time, and plain wrong.