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Report: Young people follow traditional media sources, but use new methods

The University of Jyväskylä study contradicts previous international research on the news consumption habits of young people.

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Young people in Finland still seek out traditional outlets, but often access them digitally. Image: Jani Aarnio / Yle
Yle News

More than half of Finnish teenagers use the online and digital services of traditional media outlets as a news source quite often, according to a research study conducted by the University of Jyväskylä's sociology and philosophy department.

The study examined the news consumption habits of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 years old from December 2019 to January 2020.

Contrary to many international research studies on the subject, the University of Jyväskylä's research found that more than half of the young people surveyed read the news several times a week. However, young people were less likely to follow print newspapers and television than online and app-based news services.

The notable finding in the survey was that Finnish teenagers deliberately seek out traditional media outlets, while previously international studies found that young people happened upon traditional sources coincidentally while reading the news.

Media 'omnivores'

The smallest group of teenagers were 'omnivores' that consumed the news not only through digital services but also in print media and television.

A third of the young people surveyed said they read the news on a monthly basis only and accessed content on the recommendation of social media or a suggestion by the algorithm.

"While the survey shows that many young Finns follow the news well, it is worrying that almost a third of respondents were 'news minimalists". They do not follow news intentionally from any traditional media, but accidentally stumble across it on social media," Niina Sormanen, a researcher at the University of Jyväskylä, wrote in a press release.

Sormanen added that accessing traditional media as a main source of the news is important for young people to get the right information and to participate in society. In the age of social media, young people need special guidance to access verified information in order to develop their media literacy.

"Young people who do not read the news and only encounter it by chance, through social media or algorithms, are at a much higher risk of being exposed to misinformation and fake news than those who follow the news directly from traditional media platforms," Sormanen pointed out.

The research study reinforced previous studies about the Finnish media landscape. Last week a poll found that 90 percent of people in Finland value a free and independent media. Finland also topped a media trustworthiness ranking by Oxford University's Reuters Institute last year.

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