A newspaper being printed

Why legacy media brands still matter in the UK’s ‘social media election’

For decades, the front pages of newspapers have documented iconic campaign moments. Now, many think that the internet (particularly social media platforms) is where an election is won or lost. Some have even dubbed this year’s general election the “TikTok election”.

It is true that the nature of campaigning has changed, and newspaper and broadcaster reach has waned. But legacy media brands still drive much of the political conversation around elections and beyond, though analysing their continuing reach and influence is complicated.

News organisations are facing varying challenges related to their enduring influence, reputation and reach among audiences. Media companies that can draw on deeper pockets and resilient brand loyalties are best positioned to withstand such difficulties.

But media consumption is not a zero-sum game. Suggestions that established news providers are rapidly declining in the face of the digital media ascendancy are unfounded. Around half of UK adults may say they use social media for news, but that does not mean they have no need for traditional media.

Digital platforms such as social media apps are not, themselves, publishers (a distinction that has enabled tech companies to avoid statutory regulation). They operate, via the user’s feed, as gatekeepers to information often hosted elsewhere.

The Sun, Daily Mail and other legacy news providers are brands that exist both on and offline (rather than merely as printed or broadcast entities). If we remember this, their enduring value becomes clearer. In April, the Sun and the Daily Mail, along with the Mirror and the Guardian, reached over 20 million people in the UK each. The BBC had an even larger audience of 37.8 million on its apps and websites alone.

Many people using social media for news deliberately access legacy media, by following journalists and news organisations of interest to cultivate their news feed. Other access is incidental, but no less important for its serendipity – three-quarters of online legacy news content is accessed via side-door routes such as social media, search and mobile aggregators.

And to the extent that influencers are the predominant source for news on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it is fundamentally the work of professional journalism which provides the material upon which their commentary is based.


For the full article co-written by Professor David Deacon and Professor Dominic Wring visit the Conversation.


Notes for editors

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