The amount of people using websites and apps to read news has for the first time overtaken the number reading printed newspapers in the UK, according to the country's media watchdog. Ofcom's annual News Consumption study indicates 41 percent of the population uses the net to keep up-to-date with current affairs, while 40 percent read a paper.
TV however, remains the most popular source, with 75 percent accessing news this way. While the net cannot yet claim the top spot, the study did suggest it was the fastest-growing medium. Radio was the only other area that had an increase over the past year.
Ofcom suggested 36 percent of people in the UK tuned in to radio news, a modest rise from 35 percent in 2013. By contrast, the net leapt ahead from 32 percent to today's 41percent figure. The figure for newspapers was unchanged over the period. The watchdog said it believed that younger people were largely responsible for the surge in net use, with 60 percent of the 16-to-24 age group saying they used Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and other sources to keep abreast of developments.
This may be in part because they spend more time on mobile devices than their older counterparts. Ofcom noted its study indicated that 40 percent of younger people used a mobile phone for news and 15 percent used a tablet. The comparable statistics for the over-55s were 15 percent using phones and 7 percent tablets.
The report is the latest of its kind to highlight the challenge facing traditional media. Recent figures by the National Readership Survey suggest the Sun newspaper, for example, shed one million readers over the past year, taking its current tally to about six million. The Sun's decision to put its online version behind a paywall has also caused its net readership to fall, bucking the wider trend.
Another study, published this month, by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism indicated that just 7 percent of those polled in the UK said they had paid for news in the past year.