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Post COVID news and media consumption trends in Western Europe explained

Brand reputation has taken centre stage in the last year, putting communications teams in the spotlight. Whilst the industry has remained resilient, it has faced significant changes in staying on the pulse of evolving consumer behaviours. As the world as we knew it changed, with people travelling less, spending more time at home, and socialising digitally, there has been a knock-on effect on other areas of consumption, for example how consumers engage with content.

The PR industry as a result has had to adapt. In the UK, outlets like City AM and The Evening Standard went digital only, and we saw use of social media applications such as TikTok surge. The challenge in adapting has been where to invest PR time and effort.

The answer? Follow the data. Through a unique view of 700+ in-house practitioners and 6,000 members of the public, Kantar’s latest study analysing the news and media consumption trends in Western Europe provides a window into consumer realities and communicators’ perceptions. Here are three things we learnt:

1. Hype around some channels overstates reality

Comms professionals are overestimating the speed of change - and there is a clear gap between what consumers are reading and what the industry thinks they are reading. PRs believe that audiences are now using social influencers (52%) and podcasts (43%) more for news; yet just 7% and 5% of audiences respectively agree.

The results seem to be skewed by comms professionals’ knowledge of younger audiences. In fact, the behaviour of Gen Z consumers (16-24) is much more closely aligned with the perception of comms practitioners on the wider population.

Top five news sources that are growing in importance  

Audience Reality
(Total Population)

Audience Reality

Communications practitioners perception  

1. TV news  

1. Social networks  

1. Social networks  

2. Newspapers and their websites  

2. TV news  

2. Social influencers  

3. Social networks  

3. Newspapers and their websites  

3. Newspapers and their websites  

4. Search engines  

4. Search engines  

4. TV news  

5. Radio news  

5. Social influencers  

5. Podcasts  

Q. Which sources of news and information have become more important to you/ to consumers in the last few years?  

2. Trust remains complicated

Trust in media has been a hot topic in PR circles, and it has remained a concern for brands that rely on the media to help them demonstrate industry leadership and expertise. Whilst trust in national news brands and broadcasters is still steady, trust in social and news aggregator platforms remains low with an average rating of -28%. To put that in perspective, the BBC has a trust rating of +58%.

As a result, digital continues to dominate corporate communicators’ concerns. 57% of industry professionals fear that online distribution algorithms are making it harder for their content to reach audiences, and more worrying, just one in three members of the public are confident they always notice the source of news they consume on social media.

3. Data quality is the solution

As the need for real-time data on audience behaviour grows in importance, nearly four in five (78%) say access to high-quality data they can trust is essential for developing future strategies - and a third say poor-quality data is hampering their work.

In such a fast-changing world, understanding audience behaviours and attitudes is more important than ever. Working in the PR industry, we’re regularly presented with new and emerging channels that shape our perceptions, so we must consistently stress-test views and ideas in tandem with planning and execution.

In practice, that means before each activation, comms professionals should consider who their audience is, and how do they like to be served content. The key takeaway? Be insight led - and uncover fundamental truths that demonstrate the commercial and brand impact of strategies.

Written by Anna Salter, evaluation director at Kantar

For Kantar’s latest study, link is here.

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