Media consumption during a pandemic: Irish people consuming more news
As Ireland moves between the levels of restrictions set out in the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19, the effects of the pandemic continue to reverberate through all facets of life, not least the ways in which Irish people take in news and media.
Building on previous research commissioned in May, DHR added a number of questions into the Amárach Research October Omnibus as a means of tracking longitudinally – on a twice yearly basis – changing media consumption patterns among the public. The results offer insight into how such habits are changing as the crisis evolves, while the news cycle remains notably fast-moving.
A total sample of 1,149 was achieved with quotas set on gender, age, social class and region to achieve a sample aligned with national population. Field work was conducted between Wednesday, 7th and Friday, 9th October, with the research concerning itself with the period of the last six months. Key findings and analysis now follow:
- In the last six months, Irish adults are consuming more news across every source except television, the only medium to experience a decline.
- Within that, news websites like TheJournal.ie and RTÉ.ie (56 per cent) have overtaken television (44 per cent), becoming the most popular source of news that is being followed more than before.
- More than a third (36 per cent) of Irish adults are listening to national radio more frequently, while a quarter (25 per cent) are tuning in more to local radio.
- Among social media platforms, although Whatsapp remains the most popular source for news at 41 per cent, Instagram has seen the most growth, with 22 per cent of Irish adults turning to it more, followed by Twitter at 19 per cent.
Irish people are remaining engaged with news during the ebb and flow of coronavirus restrictions of the last six months, with more news being consumed across all media in that time. Irish people remain strong consumers of news generally.
The pattern identified over the last six months might be reasonable to expect, given the range of compelling stories directly and indirectly related to the pandemic, which have dominated the news cycle during that period. These include: Government formation; the grading and results of the Leaving Cert; ‘golf gate’; local lockdown measures; and the performance of a Government which many see as stumbling through the opening of its term. Similarly, the level of engagement may be influenced by the continued daily reporting of COVID-19 figures, which has been described as an “obsession” in Ireland by some commentators in the media.
During this time, the increase in consumption of news websites, such as TheJournal.ie or RTE.ie may be somewhat unsurprising. Social media platforms aside, online outlets are the only sources that can adequately respond to the fast and evolving pace of the current news cycle and, by design, are more immediately accessible than radio. Moreover, compared to social media platforms, and given the level of disinformation that has circulated around the pandemic, there is a greater degree of trust in the reporting of such outlets.
There has been a notable increase in those tuning into national radio more than before compared to in May, with more than a third listening to national radio more frequently. The reshuffle of high-profile personnel in RTÉ Radio 1 and Newstalk on the flagship shows of both stations have drawn in larger audiences, borne out by recent JNLR figures. Local radio, meanwhile, continues to enjoy unique and enduring popularity among Irish audiences, and the results show an increasing appetite. As the prospect of county lockdowns became a reality during the period surveyed, participants may have been paying closer attention to local news.
DHR also used the same wave of fieldwork to investigate participation in arts, culture and heritage during the last six months, as well as what new interests or hobbies people have developed in that same period.
The findings and our analysis around arts and culture will be published here on Friday, 20th November, and with the findings and analysis around interests and hobbies on Friday, 28th November.