Instagram set to surpass Twitter as source of news, report says

Reuters Institute report finds 11% of respondents use the platform for news, almost as many as those who use Twitter

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2018 file photo, the Instagram app logo is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. Though Black Out Tuesday was originally organized by the music community, the social media world went dark on Tuesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the many killings of black people around the world that has caused outrage and protests. Instagram accounts, from top record label to everyday people, was full of black squares posted in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
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Facebook-owned Instagram is expected to surpass Twitter as a source of general news on social media platforms, according to a new report.

Across all age groups, the use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018, said Oxford University's Reuters Institute in its Digital News Report 2020. It will probably overtake Twitter as a general news source over the next year.

Instagram has become very popular with younger people, particularly for “stories that are told simply and well with visual images”, said Nic Newman, lead author of the report.

Instagram reaches 11 per cent of respondents across all age groups, almost as many as those who use Twitter for news, said the report.

“As people spend more time with the network, the role of news has also increased significantly … [a] big change in the last few years has been the growth of Instagram which popularised visual formats like stories and short videos via IGTV.”

IGTV is a standalone video app by Instagram for Android and iOS smartphones that allows longer videos.

Instagram and Snapchat have become popular sources of news among younger age groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, the report said, due in part to the presence of celebrities and influencers on the platform. They play an “outsized role, with some sharing music, running exercise classes as well as commenting on the wider health issues”, the report said.


According to the report, which questioned about 80,000 people in 40 countries, Instagram reaches more than 36 per cent of respondents on a weekly basis. Among respondents under the age of 25, it reaches nearly two-thirds.

The study was commissioned by the Reuters Institute from YouGov, which first collected answers online in January and February but then repeated the exercise in April to get a sense of what had changed after the coronavirus outbreak.

The report found that the pandemic has reminded people of the value of traditional media.

“Traditional local news sources still lead overall … with 71 per cent people relying on offline and online services offered by traditional local news media.”

On average, across all countries, local newspapers (44 per cent) remain the most important source of news, followed by local television (33 per cent).

Besides reinforcing the need for reliable journalism, the seriousness of the crisis has reminded communities “how open we have become to conspiracies and misinformation”, Mr Newman added.

“Journalists no longer control access to information, while greater reliance on social media and other platforms give people access to a wider range of sources, some of which are at odds with official advice or simply false."