The information rich will get richer and the information poor will get poorer, Oxford reports

by | Dec 31, 2018 | Blog, What We're Reading

Tabloid news has a higher reach amongst low-income individuals, suggesting misinformation disproportionately affects poorer people.

Social Inequalities in News Consumption
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford
By Antonis Kalogeropoulos and Rasmus Kleis Nielson
October 2018

News consumption has always varied based on social grade. But in a recent Oxford study, researchers found this inequality will most likely increase in the future. Why? Those who are more interested in news increasingly consume more news, while those who are not increasingly tune out.

The study’s researchers also found tabloids have a significantly greater reach with lower social grade individuals, while upmarket newspapers have a greater reach with those of a higher social grade. Results displayed more inequality in online news compared to offline news. “News consumption is more unequally distributed in the UK than income is,” researchers noted.

These results imply search engines need to do a better job at leading people to a more diverse variety of news, an idea called “incidental exposure.” As Kalogeropoulos and Nielson said, “Most journalists would like news to reach everybody more or less equally, irrespective of social grade. Despite the ease of accessing news online today, that is clearly not happening.”

Key Numbers

  • When rated using the Gini coefficient, where zero denotes absolute equality and one denotes maximum inequality, offline UK news media brands scored .42 and online UK media brands scored .55. The Gini coefficient for UK income inequality in 2015 was .36.
  • Higher social grade respondents use an average of 2.11 online news sources, and lower social grade participants used an average of 1.6.

Study Details

  • Researchers used data from the United Kingdom’s 2018 Digital News Report survey to quantify social inequalities in news consumptions.
  • The online questionnaire collected data during the end of January through the beginning of February 2018.
  • Researchers determined participants’ social grade through a survey that asked about the occupation of the chief income earner in their household. They were rated based on socio-economic model. The survey did not consider gender, age or ethnicity.
  • The data were weighted based on census data to represent the total population of the UK.