COVID COMMS #30: How people are getting their COVID-19 info should shape your future comms

Yet again, Ofcom should stand up and take a bow.

Quietly the telecoms watchdog have published a 614-page XL spreadsheet of data collected last month on COVID-19 media consumption trends.

Like Bletchley Park operation Ofcom are producing quality intercepts that can give you a headstart if you are communicating advice on the pandemic.

Because I love you very much I’ve read it and I’m blogging it here for you.

It’s fascinating reading.

The majority of all UK adults use social media everyday

Social media consumption in the UK is voracious across all age demographics.

Three times as many over 65s use social media every day compared to those who don’t use it at all.

Just look at the use once a day v don’t use at all data.

Aged 16-24: 96 per cent use social media daily versus one per cent don’t use

Aged 25-34: 93 per cent versus one per cent

Aged 35-44: 87 per cent versus two per cent

Aged 45-54: 76 per cent versus 11 per cent

Aged 55-64: 73 per cent versus two per cent

Aged 65+: 69 per cent versus 20 per cent

UK adults check COVID-19 information daily more the older they are

If you’re over 65 you are checking COVID-19 information more often than any other age group. That’s no surprise. The group most at risk also have the most spare time and watch the most TV. But across all age groups there is an interest whether that’s TV, radio, email, web or social media. Just three per cent of any age group say they’re not interested.

Daily COVID-19 information consumption by age group

Aged 16-24 – 77 per cent

Aged 25-34 – 81 per cent

Aged 35-44 – 85 per cent

Aged 45-54 – 81 per cent

Aged 55-64 – 84 per cent

Aged 65+ – 91 per cent

The near-universal popularity of BBC TV News

Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular channel for getting COVID-19 updates isn’t Facebook, TikTok or Twitter… it’s BBC TV News.

From youngest to oldest, across the UK, BBC News presenters Jane Hill, Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards are the most influential suppliers of pandemic news.

Surprisingly, the youngest sector, 16 to 24-year-olds, cite BBC TV News as the most regular source of coronavirus updates. Forty per cent of this demographic pointed to this while 77 per cent of over 65s chose BBC TV News.

Only 25 to 34-year-olds ranked BBC TV news in second place with Facebook coming top for them.

Public sector sites are a minority information source

The number of people getting their data from UK Government rises from 11 per cent for the youngest to 15 per cent for over 65s. NHS websites, email and post fares little better with 14 per cent for 25-to-34s being the highest.

Community health services are seen by barely more than eight per cent of any age group.

Radio cuts through to a minority

Commercial radio peaks with 17 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds with BBC local radio faring best with over 55s with more than a quarter listening.

Non-mainstream media isn’t cutting through

Sites like Breitbart, Russia Today or Skwarkbox with highly partisan slants on events aren’t reaching a wide audience. No more than three per cent of any age group see their content regularly.

Online news sites like Joe and Huffington Post are five times more popular with younger audiences but don’t attract older audiences.

E-mail schmeemail

The largest demographic getting pandemic info from email are over 65s with 13 per cent.

If you’re 16 to 24-year-old…

This demographic is more likely to get their COVID-19 information from BBC TV news more than any other channel. Forty per cent watch the Auntie’s broadcast news.

Friends and family (34 per cent) come second with Facebook third (26 per cent), BBC News online on 25 per cent with Twitter on 24 per cent.

The single lack of one dominant channel makes communicating with this age group more time consuming.

YouTube and news aggregators (both 20 per cent) and Instagram 21 per cent also make up the landscape.

Overall, 16 to 24s have seven ways to find out information which are used by a fifth or more of their number.

News sites like Huffington Post or LadBible reach a combined 17 per cent.

You’ll find this surprising, but this age group are twice as likely to get the low down from traditional media – 75 per cent – than friends and family.

They rank traditional media (45 per cent) and broadcasters (42 per cent) as the most important sources and they’re most likely to see public sector content on than any other pandemic source.

Influencers? Four per cent see COVID-19 content from them.

Snapchat? 12 per cent.

Mind blown?


If you’re 25 to 34-year-old…

If you’re late twenties and early thirties, you’ll use social media every day and you’ll see, watch or hear pandemic info every day too.

For this group, Facebook is your channel of choice (39 per cent) outranking BBC TV News (33 per cent) and BBC Online is third on 27 per cent.

Like their younger relatives, traditional media and broadcasters are the most important sources with around 40 per cent rating this group.

If you’re 35 to 44-year-old…

Social media and COVID-19 updates are daily and BBC TV (45 per cent) is where you get most information.

Friends and family and Facebook which both are seen by a third.

Newspapers make an appearance with 25 per cent while traditional media overall is 72 per cent.

Broadcasters and traditional media are the most important sources.

If you’re 45 to 54…

Every day, three quarters use social media daily and four fifths consume pandemic information.

BBC TV News is top with 56 per cent with ITV News on 31 per cent beating Facebook into third place with BBC Online and Radio close behind.

Broadcasters are the most important source.

If you’re 55 to 64…

Almost three quarters use social daily with BBC News 66 per cent the largest source of information far ahead of ITV news on 38 per cent.

Friends and family are third with BBC Online and News close behind.

Yet again, broadcasters are the most important source.

If you’re over 65…

A total of 69 per cent use social media daily and 91 per cent are consuming COVID-19 info daily.

A bumper 77 per cent watch BBC TV. That’s almost double the nearest most popular channel – ITV News- which has 40 per cent.

In third place are newspapers (38 per cent) friends and family (28 per cent) with BBC Radio 4th a point behind.

Overall, there are 15 different ways 10 per cent or more over 65s get COVID-19 information.

Anti-vaxx tops the misinformation charts

More people have seen anti-vaccination content than any other and it is the content most likely to be challenged.

Overall, 46 per cent have seen content claiming anti-vaxx statements are true rather than 23 per cent debunking them. This must be a long-term challenge for public health. There’s no point scientists working on a jab if the info war has been lost.

Almost one in seven would have a jab declared safe by the NHS.

The one piece of misinformation likely to be attacked is the idea that mainstream media are exaggerating the pandemic. That’s outscored by 25 to 47 per cent.

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica.

While you’re here, I’ve just launched a new online workshop programme ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER. I’ve done the research to pin down what comms people need. See more here.

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