Consumers remain attached and engaged with television news bulletins, according to new research commissioned by Marketing Week. But change is coming, as it has in other media where news publishers are already struggling with the rise of the web and mobile devices.
Indeed, 80% of consumers get news from TV, 57% consider it the most reliable news medium and 46% turn to their televisions first for breaking news, according to a study of 1,000 consumers by Lightspeed. That puts TV top on all three measures, while 90% of those polled also prefer to watch their favourite TV programmes on live or recorded broadcasts from their TV sets rather than downloading or streaming them from internet-connected platforms.
Lightspeed marketing director Ralph Risk says: “Although you hear people say social media and websites are going to kill off traditional media, I do not think that is going to be the case in the near future. With the resources that TV news broadcasters have to bring in stories from around the world, there is a very solid feeling of trust that people have built up over the years in getting the news.”
Where current affairs is concerned, TV news is holding up better than other traditional news media. Only 38% of people say they get news from a paid-for printed newspaper in an average week, and 26% from a free title.
The research also indicates that publishers of general interest news are failing to convince their readers to pay for it. More people (46%) now use a free website in an average week than buy a newspaper and 23% say these sites are the most reliable news source – second behind TV.
Online news appears to have established itself in the minds of consumers as a product they expect to get free, with just 4% of people paying a regular subscription for a current affairs website.
At the same time, consumers are increasingly looking to online sources other than traditional media organisations for their news. A quarter of consumers now get news from Facebook in an average week and 21% use a search engine. Small but significant percentages also say they use online news aggregators, Twitter and other social networks.
Risk says: “News providers need to be aware that media sources have changed from a ‘push’ model. With social networks and people going online much more, they choose where they want to get the information. If your information or news is not there, you have the potential to miss out.”
Trust in printed newspapers is also an issue for survey respondents, perhaps caused in part by the News of the World hacking scandal last summer and the ongoing Leveson inquiry into media ethics.
Only 6% of respondents think paid-for newspapers are the most reliable news source, putting them fourth behind TV, free websites and radio, but ahead of the 1% who say free newspapers are most reliable.
“Confidence in these publications has taken a knock,” says Risk. “People are feeling they might not be as trustworthy as they were before. It is a challenge for newspapers and publishers to build up that confidence again.”
Breaking down the news consumption figures demographically shows that it is continuing to move in a digital direction. Consumers aged 18 to 34 are more likely than older generations to use and trust websites and social networks for their news, and are less likely than average to get it from TV, radio or newspapers.
A higher than average percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds also use a computer, mobile or web-connected set to view general TV programmes in an average week, while fewer than average watch free-to-air, Freeview and paid-for digital TV.
This suggests that change is inevitable in the way consumers watch programmes, with likely future growth in viewing on internet and mobile platforms. Here, high-quality content will not be the preserve of traditional TV channels.
Although only 9% of survey respondents use an internet-connected TV set to watch programmes at the moment, 45% say their next TV will be web-enabled, compared with 40% who say it will not be. The remainder are not aware of what a connected TV is. The majority (71%) of those who plan to buy a connected TV say they will do so within two years.
“Internet-connected TV might not be hugely popular at the moment but it is something marketers should be keeping an eye on,” says Risk. “Because there is not a huge amount of people using it on a daily basis, they might not understand all the features on the newer TVs, and it will need education from the TV and content providers to encourage people to use them.”
This new generation of TV sets is likely to increase the level of programme viewing through video streaming services such as LoveFilm and Netflix, online media players and web apps built into the TVs themselves. Although only 4% of internet-connected TV owners currently view most of their programmes through apps, 22% already use catch-up services for the bulk of their viewing.
This compares with the finding that more than half of all internet-connected TV owners use established digital TV services, indicating that these viewers still value the exclusive content available through the channels that digital providers carry.
The top three digital TV providers – Sky, Virgin Media and BT Vision – are used by 26%, 17% and 10% of internet-connected TV owners respectively. The figure is broadly comparable with the 53% of consumers in general that use a paid-for digital TV service.
Although there is a clear indication that media consumption is going to become increasingly fragmented, the branding of the four main channels remains strong. TV channels will be encouraged by the findings that viewers tend to associate TV personalities strongly with the channels on which they appear. For example, more than 75% of survey respondents correctly identify Bruce Forsyth and Gary Lineker as BBC presenters. Similarly, 68% associate Davina McCall with her main employer Channel 4 and more than half know that Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley currently work for ITV. And Jonathan Ross is more strongly associated with his new ITV show than his previous employer the BBC by 50% of people.
Risk says: “The channels have spent quite a bit of money to bring their personalities on because they act as figureheads for prime shows, so this is positive news for them. Jonathan Ross shows how quickly people can start associating someone with a different channel.”
However, internet-connected TV viewing could remove the need to view the programme on a platform owned by a traditional TV channel, which puts at risk the strong associations consumers have between the channel brands and their content. As viewing habits adjust to new technologies, media brands need to think about how they position themselves to maintain the trust and interest of consumers.
Global research director
There are so many variables affecting where people go for news. For example, the type of news we communicate is very different to The Sun and The Guardian.
Every source that I have looked at tells us that if people want business news, the first sources are newspapers, with the internet rising in the rankings fast. TV is always a poor third, according to the European Media and Marketing Survey. In entertainment news, TV is streets ahead. Current affairs is more of a mixed bag.
The second differentiator is the type of person. Heavy TV viewers always over-index in the lower income brackets, heavy newspaper readers always over-index in the upper income brackets. Within the numbers hide a myriad of interesting facts waiting to be discovered.
I do not think newspapers have suffered as a medium as a result of the tabloid hacking crisis. I think it is more about news brands. This story has been dominated by the brand that has been behind the investigations, rather than the medium. Business news has always been a totally different branch.
If you have content that is unique and has value to the end user, you are able to monetise it in a better way because it differentiates itself and it gives people something they can actually use in their daily lives. The context we are talking in is business, but there are other sectors where that would work, perhaps in trade sectors.
Content sales and marketing director
Guardian News & Media
We are seeing massive growth across our digital channels. Our mobile platform attracted about 8.5 million users in November – about 13% of all traffic –
while our website users were up about 59% year on year.
Our readers are changing the way they consume their news, as this research suggests. We are, therefore, making adjustments to how we produce and present it. Readers tell us that what they want from newspapers is changing, as they seek out and absorb breaking news via the web, mobile and TV.
We think print has an important part to play, but it is part of a wider portfolio of digital products. For example, our Facebook app has been downloaded 5 million times now, and we are seeing that over 60% of users are 24 and under – a traditionally hard-to-reach age group for newspapers.
We have a strong bedrock in the student community. Our education pages and jobs pages are still a strong and important part of what we do, but you cannot disregard the fact that there are media choices out there that younger demographics are using for significant parts of their day.
Print is still a significant proportion of our revenues. I do not see that changing over the next few years, but I want to be able to reflect changing audience habits. They want to use a number of different media channels rather than one specifically.
Director of new media
We see ourselves as a media brand rather than a TV brand. We are a multimedia platform that has two lines of content – the core business is paid-for TV but we are also a website and have been for more than 10 years.
Our belief at Eurosport is that, when it comes to news, TV is becoming less able to compete with the internet and mobile. We get 25% of our internet traffic from mobile devices. What we see is very different behaviour from users. They do not only visit us every day, they visit us every hour. Now we compete in a market that wants to be able to shoot us information every minute. Not only does it occur on sports websites, but it also occurs in generic news.
We want to build a company that is screen-agnostic. By that we mean that we want to have the TV content as well as the news content available on any screen. The digital distribution that has disrupted the music and book businesses is now happening in TV. It started with video-on-demand businesses, but there is no reason why live TV should be an exception. Connected TV is a very important development for us, and we will be very active starting this year, and even this quarter.