12 May 2020
EY - man sitting at desk holding baby and looking at mobile phone

Satisfying the need for news during the COVID-19 crisis

Authors

Martyn Whistler

EY Global Media & Entertainment Lead Analyst

Keen observer of all things media and entertainment. Storyteller. Avid reader. Bluff traditionalist, impatient for the future. Fan of sports, occasionally sporty. Fan of the arts, rarely arty.

Praveen Shankar

EY UK&I Technology, Media and Telecommunications Sector Leader

Broad experience in transformation and operations, driving the 5G agenda, focused on tackling the most pressing and complex business and technology challenges in the industry.

Adrian Baschnonga

EY Global Telecommunications Lead Analyst

Lead Analyst with deep sector knowledge in technology, media and telecom, gained in professional services and business intelligence environments.

12 May 2020
Related topics COVID-19 TMT

Research shows news providers are rising to the challenge during the COVID-19 crisis, but building trust and tackling fake news is a key priority

It is hardly a surprise during the COVID-19 crisis that the UK public has a greater appetite than ever for news. The number of viewers tuning into speeches by the country’s politicians and leaders rivals TV’s biggest ever sporting occasions. EY’s latest research reveals the levels of increased demand, with exactly half of UK households (50%) saying they are looking for more news now than before the crisis began.

The research shows consumers are satisfying their hunger for news by tuning into a mix of different outlets with the popularity and effectiveness of each based, unmistakeably, on perceptions of trust. In the present circumstances, establishing trust and overall credibility has never been more important, but there is more that companies can do to improve how consumers see them.

As news consumption rises, audiences turn to public service broadcasters

By far the biggest uptick in news consumption is with the UK’s Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs). The breadth and depth of their coverage as well as their reach, make them a go-to source for national news, particularly in challenging times. In addition to PSBs’ evergreen popularity, 40% of UK consumers say they currently rely on them even more for news during this crisis.

In the minds of the consumers, PSB brands have a strong hold. Online and broader news, which may be a catch-all that includes some content from PSBs as well as print and other sources, is also up but not so significantly. For comparison, the amount of people upping their reliance on online news is half the figure of those relying on PSBs (20%). Although it is higher for 18-24 year olds (25%), the youngest age group in the survey. 

Reliance on PSBs

40%

are relying on PSBs even more during the crisis

Reliance on online news

20%

are relying more on online news

With more people at home and particularly working from home, 11% say they rely more on radio for news and just 5% say printed media. This is the same figure as those who claim to have downloaded an app for updates and the latest notifications.

Despite the relative differences in increased consumption, all media are enjoying an overall increase, as consumers look for their extra news fix from wherever it is available.

Positive perceptions of rising to the challenge

In part, the relative success of PSBs reflects wider perceptions of how they are managing throughout the current crisis. At a time when it’s important to strike the right balance between informing and sensationalising, over three quarters of the UK’s public (77%) think the PSBs are coping well with the situation.

At the same time, over half of consumers (55%) also think social media is doing well, which rises to two-thirds for 18-24 year olds (66%). Much of social media’s credibility is attributable to the availability of news and information. However, 39% of households also say they are using social media more than usual for updates and to stay in touch with friends and family.

Positive views of PSBs

77%

think PSBs are coping well

Positive views of social media

55%

think social media platforms are doing well

Building and securing trust remains a challenge

For any news provider, one of the enduring challenges remains securing trust and ultimately loyalty amongst their audience. Despite the hunger for more news and the rush by outlets to meet the challenge, this is as much about quality of output as it is about quantity. The COVID-19 crisis has created a maelstrom of fact and fiction with no limits on misinformation, uninformed opinion or outright fake news. The ability of news outlets to navigate through this will shape their audiences’ perceptions of trust.

There is certainly an opportunity for online news sources. 17% of 18-24 year olds say they trust online news sources less today than before the crisis. That is not an insignificant number. It is the highest amongst any demographic and almost twice those aged over 55 (9%). It shows younger audiences are becoming more discerning and more questioning of what they see and read online.

Online news trust among younger audiences

17%

of 18-24 year olds say they trust online sources less now

Online news trust among older audiences

9%

of over 55s trust online news less now

The same discernment manifests itself explicitly on social media. Of all households, 17% say they now trust social media less than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. Yet in the younger age group this number is once against highest at 24%.

Tackling fake news is a priority for news consumers

During this current crisis, the opportunity for all news outlets and for social media in particular, is to establish themselves as trustworthy and credible. By doing so, they will attract the largest audiences and likely retain them after the crisis has passed. To achieve this, news outlets need to double down on efforts to combat fake news.

In recent weeks, and as evidenced in the research, the rolling news and constant updates create a heightened scepticism amongst a large minority about news and information posted online.

Two thirds of consumers (67%) believe social media platforms have a chance to do more to police fake news and should be taking action. From a trust perspective, it will be reassuring that so many consumers feel social media can do more self-policing. Social media platforms not only have the opportunity to do more but, as the survey implies, they have an opportunity to be more transparent about what they are already doing.

In the minds of the majority of consumers, fake news is a very real issue. If social media companies are not transparent or credible in their efforts, there is a backstop option. Over half of consumers (52%) believe some of the responsibility for combating fake news, lies with regulators. They agree the government should take action. Again, younger audiences over-index with 57% believing the government should do more.

Social media and fake news

67%

believe social media platforms could do more to tackle fake news

Regulators and fake news

52%

believe regulators could do more to combat fake news

The lessons media companies should learn from COVID-19

In the current crisis, many companies are focused on near-term necessities. How long is the liquidity pathway and what can be done to extend it by cutting costs? The challenge, and where the opportunity lies, is to be counterintuitive. Given the heightened levels of demand for news, now is the time to double-down. How can companies capitalise on the increased level of traffic and positive perceptions about their performance, to engage with customers beyond this crisis period?

There is a significant opportunity for media companies to ensure they stay at the heart of a household by continuing to provide timely and relevant news. For several years, the utilisation of data has been a hot topic in many media companies – both for improving operations and driving growth. Utilising the plethora of insights and data, companies can glean on consumption during the COVID-19 crisis. This will help them understand the ways in which they can continue the upward trajectory and remain relevant.

Demonstrating what companies are doing to combat fake news and delivering timely and relevant news is a huge opportunity and not something that should just be left to the government. Across the board, all types of media should be focusing on communicating and demonstrating the role they are taking within this. The use of technology in the newsroom to validate content can be an opportunity and even more-so in such a fast moving, rapidly changing reality. To date, technologies such as intelligent automation and emerging capabilities around blockchain, have demonstrated how it is possible to rapidly validate content and sources. This has not only enhanced the quality of output, but the wider perception of brand.

Given the success of technologies like AI-driven automation tools and the ability to deploy these at scale and at speed, now is not the time to hold back but to push through on these investments.

Summary

In these exceptional times there is a demand for news and information that is unprecedented. In different ways, different news outlets are meeting that demand. However, what will define their ability to retain audiences in this ‘new normal’, has much to do with how they build trust with audiences and maintain credibility. Companies that seize the opportunity and accelerate this transformation will emerge from the crisis ahead of the competition.

About this article

Authors

Martyn Whistler

EY Global Media & Entertainment Lead Analyst

Keen observer of all things media and entertainment. Storyteller. Avid reader. Bluff traditionalist, impatient for the future. Fan of sports, occasionally sporty. Fan of the arts, rarely arty.

Praveen Shankar

EY UK&I Technology, Media and Telecommunications Sector Leader

Broad experience in transformation and operations, driving the 5G agenda, focused on tackling the most pressing and complex business and technology challenges in the industry.

Adrian Baschnonga

EY Global Telecommunications Lead Analyst

Lead Analyst with deep sector knowledge in technology, media and telecom, gained in professional services and business intelligence environments.

Related topics COVID-19 TMT