Social Outranks Newspapers For Media Consumption - Time To Put Content Ahead of Demographic Stereotypes?

Demographics are always curious. They tend to have a general correct assumption, which we all kind of recognise in ourselves and the people we know. They can even throw up some surprises, such as YouGov finding that Daily Telegraph readers are the most likely to own a cat, while Daily Express owners prefer a dog. Daily Mail readers are, you may not be surprised to hear, described as "intolerant on occasion."

For the record, I subscribe to the Daily Telegraph, yet own a dog. I also subscribe to The Times, which increases my chances against other paper readers of owning a cat, yet still I own a dog. The pal I swap stories with on social media the most subscribes to both papers and owns a dog also. The Daily Mirror readers love ham, egg and chips, just like me -- and are typically a mad football fan, just like me. Trouble is, I've never bought the paper.

So the general demographic we know. ABs will be reading the broadsheets and DEs soaking up the red tops. Once you try to drill down and say who owns what and who likes eating something in particular, you're in the realms of those trashy quizzes you find in women's magazines.

My big point, however, isn't that although I own a dog, I really should own a cat, according to the research. No, the elephant in the room that is screaming out for attention here is the Web. More particularly, social media. 

For all newspaper owners and compilers of demographic profiles, I have a stark message. We may not be quite there yet, but we're fast approaching a time where there are no typical newspaper readers. As people share more and more content online, Web and mobile app users find themselves flicking around different news sources. Friends will either say "you have to read this, it's great" or "can you believe someone said this" -- but either way, you're compelled to click through. 

Whereas we were once used to standing still as we got our news from the television and our paper of choice, today we're still tuned in to the tv news, but we're flitting around between newspaper sources online. We've gone from a newspaper banquet to one of those "safari" type dinners where friends move from one person's house to another for each course, each bringing a plate for everyone to share. 

So if I'm making a point about digital, so we're going to have to bring in some data to prove it. The latest official figures came from Ofcom and Kantar Media in June 2014. The macro view is that television is still the number one source for news for three in four people. Online and app consumption of news is up from one in three to 41 percent in the past year. Interestingly, it's up to 60 percent among 16- to-34-year-olds, making young people three times as likely to access news online as those who are over 55. 

So a lot more people -- particularly, the young -- are accessing news online or through apps. What does this mean for news organisations? Surely it doesn't matter how people take in their content, so long as it's via their Web site or their app. Well, the answer is yes -- but we're going to come back to that elephant in the room, once again.

When the latest research listed the consumption of news, the BBC was way out ahead, as ever, with a 43 percent market share across all platforms. ITV is second with a 10 percent share and commercial radio, and Sky are tied on 7 percent in joint third place.

If we skip just a moment from joint third place to not name the next in line just yet, we move on instead to joint sixth place where we have DMGT (Daily Mail) and News Corp (The Times, The Sun) each on a 4 percent share.

Nestling just above them and just below Sky and commercial radio is social media with a 5 percent market share. It may sound small, but just look at how it has already overtaken the traditional huge names in print already and it's catching up with the non-BBC broadcasters.

Another stat? Okay -- so social media is now a bigger source for news than search engines (which have a 3 percent penetration, the same as Channel 4). Nearly one in three 16- to-34-year-olds use social media to find news (while 60 percent go online to the BBC Web site or app to keep up to date).

So while the BBC's dominance remains, the really interesting story that is evolving is that news brands in the digital era are losing their exclusive grip on readers. Young people in particular are sharing and consuming news via social. They don't see themselves as a particular newspaper reader. They're interested in content over and above the brand it is labelled by. 

Newspaper exclusivity has gone, and so will much of the demographic stereotypes that surround their "readers" as they flick from one source to another.

If you want an analogy. We're no longer caterpillars crawling around the same leaves. We've metamorphosed in to butterflies who can fly around the whole garden, and next door's garden too.

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