Instagram is quickly becoming a popular popular source of news for users ages 18-24 and is set to overtake Twitter, according to new research.
The 2020 Reuters Institute Digital News report finds the amount of users turning to Instagram for news has doubled since 2018.
Younger people are behind the shift toward Instagram as a news source, with two-thirds of people under 25 saying they use it for that purpose.
Users aged 18-24 are more considerably likely to access news via social media than a website or dedicated news app, the report finds.
“Access to news continues to become more distributed. Across all countries, just over a quarter (28%) prefer to start their news journeys with a website or app.
Those aged 18–24 (so-called Generation Z) have an even weaker connection with websites and apps and are more than twice as likely to prefer to access news via social media.”
Across all demographics 11% of people use Instagram for news, which is just one point behind Twitter.
This is notable as Instagram hasn’t traditionally been thought of as a destination for the latest news.
Real-time news updates have always been Twitter’s forte, while Instagram has been more of a platform where people share photos and videos for entertainment.
However, Instagram’s specialization in visual content is precisely what makes it appealing as a news source to younger people.
Nic Newman, lead author of the Reuters report, states:
“Instagram’s become very popular with younger people. They really respond well to stories that are told simply and well with visual images.”
Instagram still has a ways to go before it catches up to Facebook, which is currently the most popular social network for news use.
YouTube is the second-most popular social network for news, followed by WhatsApp, Twitter, and then Instagram.
If Instagram continues to double its news usage year-over-year then it won’t be long before it overtakes Twitter and approaches Facebook & YouTube territory.
Social Media Not a Trusted Source of News Overall
Despite the uptick in use as a news source, Reuters finds that social media is the least trusted source of digital news.
In the United States, only 14% of people trust news they see in social media compared to 22% who trust news they find in search engines.
Of those who trust social media for news, Instagram ranks second-to-last as a trusted source. Facebook is tops again in this area, followed by YouTube and Twitter.
Trust in news in the United States is low overall, however, as only 29% of people say they trust any news.
Online – including social media, websites, and apps – is by far the most popular medium for consuming news in the United States
Social media represents the greatest area for growth when it comes to news consumption. As you can see in the graphic below, social media is the only source that has grown in popularity at all in recent years.
Print news continues its decline, while TV news appears to be seeing a resurgence after a sharp drop in 2017-2018.
For more on the state of the digital news industry in 2020, see the full report here (PDF link).