Four very different types of news use by young people have been revealed in a recent study by the HBI, which provides new insights for media companies and media education.
The study "#UseTheNews - News Usage and News Literacy in the Digital Age" found out that there are great differences in news interest and usage behaviour within the group of "young people". For the first time, a study breaks down in such a precise and differentiated way how young people within the age groups of teenagers (14-17 years) and young adults (18-24 years) deal with news. #UseTheNews was initiated by the dpa and the Hamburg Ministry for Culture and Media, and was conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research. The findings were presented and discussed at Mediendialog Hamburg on 28 April 2021.
You can download the study here
It becomes clear that it makes little sense to paint all young people with the same brush. Even if many of them use social media frequently, this does not automatically mean that they are not interested in news. Because some also read a daily newspaper or use news websites. Some are very interested in information about private areas of interest; others want news about the world or climate protection. Depending on the combination of news interest, the duration of the use of related offers and the relevance that journalistic offers have for young people, four different types of news can be distinguished within an age and education group.
Four Types of News Users among Young People
The study describes four types of news use among adolescents (14-17 years) and young adults (18-24 years): the (1) journalistically information-oriented, the (2) less information-oriented, the (3) comprehensive information-oriented and the (4) non-journalistically information-oriented. These types differ in terms of interest, use, attributed relevance for opinion forming and being informed.
- The journalistically information-oriented have a high interest in news and are well informed. They use journalistic sources and attribute great relevance to them for forming their opinions. Non-journalistic sources have a low relevance for them.
- Less information-oriented people have a low interest in news and are not well informed. They do not use journalistic sources and use non-journalistic sources only to a small extent.
- Extensively information-oriented people have a high news interest and are well informed. They make extensive use of both journalistic and non-journalistic sources and attach great relevance to both in forming their opinions.
- Non-journalistically information-oriented people have a medium news interest and are not well informed. They do not use journalistic sources, but attribute high relevance to non-journalistic sources.
Reference to Their Own Life is Missing
About half of adolescents and young adults do not consider it important to be informed about current events. When it comes to journalistic news, they often miss a connection to the reality of their own lives. In the age group of 14- to 17-year-olds, more than two-thirds of the non-journalistic information-oriented (67%) and 59% of the 18- to 24-year-olds feel this way. Even among the journalistically information-oriented - those youths and young adults with high news usage - the value is comparatively high at just under 40 per cent each.
The authors of the study therefore see it as an essential task for journalistic news media to meet young people in the reality of their own lives.
Friends, Families and Acquaintances Crucial for Opinion Formation
Journalistic sources are no longer of decisive importance for young people in forming their opinions. Friends, family and acquaintances are more relevant. For 18- to 24-year-olds in the group of the journalistically information-oriented is the personal environment on a par with journalistic news media (59 percent and 61 percent respectively). The high relevance of influencers for opinion formation is striking. 41 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds with a comprehensive information orientation consider influencers very important for forming their own opinions.
Recommendations for Actions for Media and Educational Institutions
"Journalistic providers should develop ways to highlight the everyday relevance of their services for young people and at the same time show that they are more capable of providing relevant information than other information providers due to their competencies and working methods," say the authors of the study Uwe Hasebrink, Sascha Hölig and Leonie Wunderlich. "Only solid craftsmanship as well as reliable content from different perspectives can succeed in setting themselves apart from non-journalistic and opinionated actors and create a convincing added value for which people are willing to pay money in case of doubt."
The study also notes that knowledge about the function and operation of journalism is limited. Therefore, it is advisable to pay more attention to media education in schools, say the authors. Young people should be given a better understanding of the basic functions of journalism in a democracy and the structures of the media system, including the role of public broadcasting, but also knowledge of the mechanisms of attention and the working methods of professional journalism.
Study Design: Face-to-Face Survey of about 1500 People in the Autumn of 2020
The design of the study was developed along several guiding questions: Which difference does it make a difference where and how adolescents and young adults inform themselves? And what general patterns of orientation towards news can be observed in the digital media environment? To answer these questions, the interplay between news interest, news use, being informed and opinion formation was investigated. The focus was on the importance of the different journalistic and non-journalistic news offerings in this interplay. Eight group discussions with a total of 35 participants and 500 face-to-face interviews with people from the age groups 14-17 years, 18-24 years and 40-50 years (n = 1,508) were conducted. The samples form a structurally identical picture of the German-speaking population in private households in the respective age groups with regard to the variables age, gender, region and education (50 per cent each formally high and formally low). The fieldwork was carried out by the Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung (GIM) [Society for Innovative Market Research] between 12 October and 6 December 2020.