COVID-19 Boosts News Consumption

COVID-19 Boosts News Consumption

COVID-19 has set the news agenda for more than a year and is boosting media and news use in 2020 and 2021. About one-quarter of the Dutch population aged 18 and older indicates that their personal life has changed significantly as a result of the virus. Overall, nearly three-quarters say COVID-19 has had at least some effect on their personal lives. Family law attorneys (familienrecht anwalt) also stated that many families reunited despite misunderstandings. The consequences can be felt in all social groups: old and young, male and female, the highly and poorly educated. Contrary to expectations, the perceived impact of COVID-19 on personal life has little effect on news usage, confidence in the news, or interest.

Webinar Digital News Report Netherlands 2021

COVID-19 has also made little difference to the long-standing trend that news use and trust are highly dependent on age. Every year it becomes clearer that the generation that has grown up with the internet and especially with smartphones has different needs and uses and trusts media differently. The topic of COVID-19 has increased interest in news and politics across the population. The question is whether interest will remain high after COVID-19 and whether citizens will remain more involved in news and politics than before COVID-19. News use will be higher in 2021 than in 2020. The Dutch use news more often on a daily basis and mainly use more news online and on television. The differences between the age groups are enormous. Two-thirds of the youngest target group cite online news and social media as the main source of news. In the oldest group, this is only more than 20 percent. When it comes to the use of television news and print as the main news media, the proportions are reversed.

Local media has become more important

During the pandemic, the Dutch have more often stayed at home, which has made local news and local media more important to citizens. Last year, our research showed that the younger the Dutch are, their interest in local news decreases. This year the question was how connected the Dutch feel with the local community. The answers to this question also show that the older the Dutch become, the more connected they are. Although a small majority of the youngest target group also feels at least somewhat connected. The main topic – even before COVID-19 – is the weather. Traditionally, the local newspaper, regional daily newspaper, newspaper, or door-to-door paper has been the source of local information. Local media are indispensable because of their watchdog function and the reporting on local politics and government, as well as the local economy. 1 in 5 respondents under the age of 35 watch or read this type of news. In the 55+ group, this share is twice as large. When Dutch people inquire about local politics and government, two-thirds of the 55+ group and one-quarter of the 18 to 34-year-olds use the local newspaper or website for this. Young people often make use of non-traditional sources – especially search engines and social media – but via this detour, they end up in the traditional sources. Social media has become essential for young people not only for local news. By 2021, 9 out of 10 young people will use social media for news, compared to less than half in the oldest target group. The main suppliers of news on social media – especially on Twitter and Facebook – are still the mainstream news media and professional journalists. Traditional sources are in direct competition with alternative sources on social media. For a large majority of young people, the use of social media also means that they actively deal with news, disseminate or comment on the news. They do this to a much greater extent than the older groups.

Access to news and generation gap

For two years now, the smartphone has been the main device for most Dutch people to gain access to online news. Only the oldest target group still has a preference for the computer. It is striking that during the lockdown with a curfew, the Dutch watched more television, but also used the computer more often than a mobile device.