COVID COMMS #36: How people in the UK are getting their COVID-19 info in 2021

Tucked away on the Ofcom website is a frequently updated data set which is solid gold for communicators.

Across 8,400 lines of data a picture is built on how people are finding out about the pandemic, what channels they trust and what they think.

Reader, I’ve read it so you don’t have to.

This will help focus what you do.

Read on.

People are still heeding the advice

You may not believe it if you scroll through your timeline, but people say they are still observing the rules.

Ofcom’s survey shows 97 per cent saying they were staying at home as much as possible and are social distancing and mask wearing.

People trust the public sector

Good news, local government people.

Your content is the most trusted across the UK with 82 per cent putting their faith in it.

Perhaps surprisingly, NHS comes second with 81 per cent with UK Government in third.

Devolved nations fare well. In Scotland, there is 97 per cent trust of Scottish Government, 91 per cent of Wales Government and 72 per cent in Northern Ireland.

But before Champagne is cracked open, the survey also shows that most people don’t go to public sector channels. Three per cent use local government channels and seven per cent their local NHS. One in five uses national government or NHS sites.

So, how to reach people?

We’ve all seen the rants about the ‘lame-stream media’ online but the survey shows they remain a widely trusted channel for COVID-19 information with 58 per cent trusting news brands. These brands also do consistently well as being the place where people get their pandemic data.

People are trusting the jabs

In the summer, 50 per cent said they’d get inoculated. In January 2021, that’s risen to 74 per cent.

Good work.

Dis and misinformation

Don’t give up just yet.

A third of people saw ‘true’ claims that 5G was behind the pandemic and a third didn’t know if they were true or not. Other debunked claims get seen by one in ten people, the Ofcom data says.

Make sure your content works on a smartphone

If you’re creating content, the smartphone is where it’ll be most often seen with 80 per cent of people viewing.

Laptops are next with 66 per cent.

Public sector pages won’t reach most people

Slaving away on your NHS, council or government channel? You won’t reach most people that way.

Less than 10 per cent will get their news from local NHS or council channel and that’s half who go to UK and home nation Government and national NHS sites.

But don’t worry, your media relations people can reach people by creating content for journalists.

Traditional media is winning the infowar

If you want to reach people with pandemic news it’s the traditional media you really want to concentrate on.

That’s where 86 per cent get their news and that’s the case across all ranges, too. It’s also trusted by 42 per cent – three times as many as may see things on Facebook.

It’s a daily hit

Despite 24-hour news and social media, the majority of people will make a daily trip for news on COVID-19.

Nine out of 10 make that single news gathering exercise and that figure is consistent throughout all age demographics

Overall, two per cent of the population never ever check.

Age groups are not an amorphous blob… sometimes

One of the really interesting challenges for 2021 is the fact that different age ranges consume media in different ways. But sometimes they do.

As we shall see.

A breakdown of COVID-19 news sources by age

16-24 year-olds: always on social media consumers with a taste for traditional news, friends and family

If you want to reach this age range, know first that they are big daily consumers of social media.

They’re most likely to find COVID-19 updates from BBC TV (47 per cent), BBC online (29 per cent) and Twitter (32 per cent).

They’re the most likeliest to check their news from official scientists (25 per cent) and they’re the most likely to get news from friends and family (30 per cent).

Try and reach them through a public sector channel direct and you’ll fail. Less than one in ten will see it.

Spread your information around traditional media and 78 per cent will see some as they watch, read and scroll.

Influenxcers? Six per cent of this group trust them on the pandemic.

Too young for this? Don’t believe it. This age group has the lowest number of people (4 per cent) who never check for rona lowdown.

25 to 34 year-olds favour traditional news

This demographic were no more than 11 when Oasis released ‘Whats the Story Morning Glory?’ but they grew-up with the internet.

They’re not far behind teenagers with social media consumption with 92 per cent checking social media once a day and one in ten checking more than 20 times a day.

Half will find their pandemic news this way.

They’re the most likely of everyone to go to Facebook for the latest (35 per cent) with Instagram on 25 per cent and WhatsApp on 12 per cent.

But they’re favourite individual channel for coronavirus info is the BBC (58 per cent) with eight out of 10 citing traditional media as the broad route for the skinny.

35 to 44-year-olds love the BBC but have the highest number of news avoiders

This age range who grew up in the 1980s will get their virus updates from traditional media (77 per cent) with BBC TV their favourite source (43 per cent).

Facebook for them comes second (31 per cent) and then BBC online (28 per cent), Sky and then ITV (24 per cent).

They’re the NHS website’s biggest demographic but still only two in ten will see things posted there.

This age range has the biggest number of COVID-19 avoiders. Just over one in ten never check.

45 to 54-year-olds watch the TV

It’s all about the BBC with this group, too.

Overall, 55 per cent will get their pandemic latest from Auntie Beeb.

ITV comes next on 30 per cent with family and friends dropping to less than a quarter.

BBC Online has a solid chunk of audience here with 26 per cent while Facebook drops sharply to a fifth of this demographic.

Channel 4 is biggest with this group with 14 per cent.

55 to 64-year-olds go to traditional channels

They may be thinking about retiring but their daily trip for the big picture is to one of the BBC telly bulletins. George Alagiah and Huw Edwards have their ear.

Don’t rule social media out as a past time with 68 per cent checking their profiles once a day but only a quarter say they see COVID-19 headlines compared to traditional media’s 95 per cent.

Over 65-year-olds watch the TV

If 60-year-olds were all about the TV news then this sector take that to another level.

This sector is the most at-risk from death and are most likely to check the news with 94 per cent checking in daily.

BBC News (77 per cent) is their favourite destination and the single biggest place where people get info of any age group or any channel.

Newspapers do well with over 65s with 42 per cent getting updates.

ITV is next with 42 per cent, BBC Radio third with 30 per cent, family and friends 25 per cent with BBC online on 20 per cent and NHS websites 17 per cent.

This age group is lowest for using social media for news with one in five using this route.

Eighty three per cent watch news bulletins from the BBC with newspapers (42 per cent) making an impact on this group. Overall, 95 per cent say they get their ourbreak info from traditional media.

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