Journalism’s future is a TikTok-ing clock

Boseley's TikTok explainers for The Guardian routinely get hundreds of thousands of views.
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The appetite for news is still strong in the younger market, but accessibility is a key factor. Hannah Fortune reports.

The future of journalism could rely on broadcasters and media outlets becoming more prominent on social media, says The Guardian Australia reporter, Matilda Boseley. 

“There’s a significant misperception that the younger generation somehow aren’t engaged in news or don’t care about news because they’re not turning on the TV at 6pm,” she said. 

“When I think about the future of news, I don’t think it’s as obvious as, this is the platform; it’s about understanding the way people use the internet and meeting them where they’re at,” she said. 

In 2020, Boseley saw a gap in the Australian market and began creating shortform explainer videos on TikTok for The Guardian, giving viewers in-depth background information on current news events. 

Globally TikTok has become a popular platform for publishers to expand their audience. The Washington Post and NBC News each have over a million followers. 

Journalism's future is a TikTok-ing clock
Social media is a way to reach a younger audience.

“There’s no need for people to go out of their way to get news, it can just be delivered to them during their recreational time,” said Boseley. 

The recent study How Young People Consume News by Flamingo, for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, found that young people want news access to feel as easy as using Facebook and Netflix. Senior research associate Nic Newman says mainstream news media “has an age problem”. 

Using digital footprint tracking, in-home interviews and digital diaries, the study found that young people want news to be easily accessible via social media and presented in a more positive light. 

The research suggested that the future success of major media outlets will have to make changes to format, tone and agenda to suit younger audiences. 

Boseley said she didn’t necessarily agree with that view.

I’m not sure that I buy that journalism inherently needs to change in a huge way. I think the issue is that element of accessibility.

A report from Reuters institute More Important, But Less Robust? Five Things Everybody Needs to Know about the Future of Journalism, highlighted concerns about accessing news via social media, due to a heightened risk of misleading information and manipulation.

Despite digital media empowering people worldwide, the report suggested that it also enables the spread of disinformation and undermines the funding of professional journalism. 

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Information for the #Corgi family tree sourced from the book ‘All the Queen’s Corgis’ and reporting by the BBC. 📸Getty/AP/Buckingham Palace Facebook #queenelizabeth #princeandrew #royalfamily #royalnews #dogbreeds #learnontiktok #england #scotland #familytree

♬ original sound – Guardian Australia

A recent TikTok explainer about the Queen’s corgis that has had more than two million views.

Co-author of the report, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, said: “The challenge for journalists and news media is to continue to adapt to the digital media that people all around the world are eagerly embracing at the expense of print and broadcast, and build a profession and a business fit for the future.” 

While Boseley acknowledged that “TikTok is by no means a perfect platform”, she is hopeful that users can differentiate between professionals sharing facts and everyday people sharing opinions. 

“The virtue is that my credibility is on the line, there is risk for me if I don’t tell the truth, and therefore that adds a level of accountability.”