Recent studies show that people are increasingly using TikTok for both news and as a search engine. These emerging habits open up new possibilities for publishers on the platform. Of note: In 2020, 3% of US consumers used TikTok for news. In 2022, it’s 10%, making it the fastest-growing platform for news.
There is growing evidence about the rising value of TikTok for publishers. Multiple studies this year indicate that people are increasingly using TikTok for purposes that can be served well by publishers.
3x growth in two years
A recent study by Pew Research finds that the number of US adults getting news on TikTok is increasing while news consumption on other social media sites has either declined or stayed the same in recent years. The number of US adults who say they regularly get news from TikTok has grown over 3x in two years, from 3% in 2020 to 10% in 2022.
26% of Americans under 30 say they regularly get news on TikTok. What’s more, the platform is especially popular among teens. This is a valuable group for publishers as they are future consumers.
Another Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers aged 13 to 17 has 67% saying that they use TikTok. It’s the second most used platform by teenagers after YouTube (95%) and is followed by Instagram and Snapchat. The use of Facebook meanwhile, has declined from 71% in 2014-15 to 32% now.
“Teen TikTok and Snapchat users are particularly engaged with these platforms, followed by teen YouTube users in close pursuit,” the researchers write.
Looking within teens who use a given platform, TikTok and Snapchat stand out for having larger shares of teenage users who visit these platforms regularly. Fully 86% of teen TikTok or Snapchat users say they are on that platform daily and a quarter of teen users for both of these platforms say they are on the site or app almost constantly.Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022, Pew Research Center
“Use of TikTok for news has increased fivefold among 18–24s”
All of this ties in with the findings of Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2022 from earlier this year. The report has found TikTok to be the fastest-growing network. Young ‘social natives’ prefer visual networks like TikTok and Instagram over Facebook—Instagram (40%), TikTok (16%), and Telegram (11%) are the only networks to have grown in the last year, surveys reveal.
“TikTok emerges as a significant new player in the news ecosystem,” the authors add.
Use of TikTok for news has increased fivefold among 18–24s across all markets over just three years, from 3% in 2020 to 15% in 2022.Digital News Report 2022, Reuters Institute
The report also notes that younger audiences have a weaker connection with news brands and are increasingly accessing news on platforms like TikTok. It found that 40% of 18-24s use the platform each week with 15% using it for news.
“A TV reporter who also has a TikTok page gives us regular updates … feels comforting and more intimate than watching on TV news,” says a 22-year-old female survey participant from the UK.
While many publishers were initially wary of the platform, more and more are warming up to it and experimenting. The Washington Post was an early adopter. The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and The Guardian signed up subsequently.
TikTok is no longer just a place for viral dance videos. More news organizations are flocking to the platform, sensing an opportunity to build relationships with a new generation of audiences.Jacob Granger, Senior reporter, Journalism.co.uk
The Russia-Ukraine conflict underlined how TikTok could be used to effectively cover news. Ukrainians documenting their experience of the war have registered millions of views. The New Yorker called it “the world’s first TikTok war.” It got BBC news, which avoided the platform initially, to create channels on it in Russian and English so that it could counter misinformation about the war.
“Information uncannily catered to their tastes”
TikTok is also increasingly being used as a search engine, opening up further opportunities for publishers. “More and more young people are using TikTok’s powerful algorithm—which personalizes the videos shown to them based on their interactions with content,” writes Kalley Huang for The New York Times, “to find information uncannily catered to their tastes.”
In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.Prabhakar Raghavan, VP, Engineering, Google
“Doing a search on TikTok is often more interactive than typing in a query on Google,” adds Huang. “Instead of just slogging through walls of text, Gen Z-ers crowdsource recommendations from TikTok videos to pinpoint what they are looking for, watching video after video to cull the content.”
They are “using TikTok not only to look for products and businesses but also to ask questions about how to do things and find explanations for what things mean.” Users say they look for recipes, movie recommendations, and happy hours to try among other things. This indicates the potentially vast range of opportunities before publishers to create their own content niches on the platform.
TikTok “is becoming a one-stop shop for content in a way that it wasn’t in its earlier days.”Lee Rainie, Director of Internet and Technology Research at Pew Research Center