A survey of news consumption habits has found that TikTok is the fastest growing news source among adults in the UK. According to a report from UK regulator Ofcom, the app is currently used by 7 percent of UK adults as a news source, compared to 1 percent in 2020.
The survey is more evidence of TikTok’s massive and growing presence in the digital world, and illustrates how the app is quickly becoming a go-to source for information as well as entertainment. In the US, for example, it was recently estimated that 40 percent of Gen Z (individuals born 1997 to 2012) use either TikTok or Instagram for everyday searches to find things like where to eat, instead of previous favorites like Google Search and Maps.
Although TikTok has risen fast as a news source in the UK, it’s still only the sixth most popular destination among those aged 16 to 24 (where it’s used by 27 percent of the demographic). That’s behind the BBC website/app (29 percent), Twitter (35 percent), news TV channel BBC One (36 percent), Facebook (40 percent), and Instagram (46 percent).
Among 12 to 15 year olds, the skew towards social media news is much greater. The top three digital news sources for this group are Instagram (29 percent), then YouTube and TikTok (both at 28 percent). However, these news sources are still outpaced by the two most important for teens: talking to family (65 percent) and watching TV (59 percent).
“Teenagers today are increasingly unlikely to pick up a newspaper or tune into TV news, instead preferring to keep up-to-date by scrolling through their social feeds,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research in a press statement. “And while youngsters find news on social media to be less reliable, they rate these services more highly for serving up a range of opinions on the day’s topical stories.”
This may be a worrying trend for some given TikTok’s reputation as a source of disinformation. (Recent analysis of news related to the Ukraine-Russia war, for example, found that TikTok was a prime vector for spreading “false narratives” about the conflict.) But users seem to be somewhat aware of this problem, with Ofcom noting that social media platforms continue to score worse than rival news sources on attributes like “trust,” with around two-thirds of users of social media sites saying they don’t trust them for news.