Is national data representative of your residents?

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How did you find out what was going on in the world over the last week? My answer to that question in 2019 is very different from my answer from just a few years ago. I used my apple news app, had a browse on facebook and read the Metro. I also spent very little of my time watching terrestrial TV, instead watching Netflix and iPlayer.

The changing face of news and media consumption is a fascinating and ever-changing area and there’s plenty of national open data on this from OFCOM. However, this national picture doesn’t necessarily tie into trends at a local level.

Westco’s latest media consumption research exemplifies this point, showing where differences in consumption lie across inner and outer London but also by individual borough and demographics.

Although TV does still reign as the top weekly source of news, in London consumption of this channel is lower than the UK average (75% and 81% respectively) and according to OFCOM, time spent viewing broadcast TV is dropping nationally. Printed London newspapers follow behind the TV as a top source of news, with 55% of Londoners having read one in the last seven days – but among residents living in Westminster, this rises to 70%.

Over half of Londoners say they use social media for news (55%), which is considerably higher than the UK average (41%). As you might expect, this differs considerably by age group but perhaps surprising is how many people in older age groups using social media for news, including 26% of the over 60’s in London.

Although social media is an important source of news, trust in the reliability of news from this source is low. Although 75% of 16 to 24-year-olds use social media for news, only 20% trust this as a source. People still use other news sources – most commonly search engines and the BBC to verify the information they feel may be suspicious.

This new research proves how insight at a local level is vital when planning communications and ensuring you’re getting bang for your buck. According to the LGA’s Head of Communications Survey, top channels used by local authorities to communicate news are; council websites (our survey says only a third are accessing council sites on a monthly basis), local media (massive local variations), Facebook (if not used in a smart way, won’t reach the depth of audience) and Twitter (only 25% say they use this nationally). So are too many assumptions being made here about how people access news and are these channels being used in an optimum way? The dropping informed levels among local residents seem to indicate something isn’t working… With Local Government apparently facing a further funding gap of £3bn, ensuring decisions are intelligence-led is more vital than ever.

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