According to a new study from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford, people are getting their news from ... unexpected sources. Put away your CNN app and stop checking the New York Times because a familiar app is now keeping you up to date on current events: WhatsApp.
Yep, this is real. Forget the days of shaming people for getting their news from Facebook — and let's be real, we all do. Remember: Facebook owns WhatsApp! And WhatsApp's surprising popularity as a news source signals that how we all stay up-to-date is changing. Fast.
The study surveyed individuals from over 30 countries and five continents, assessing their thoughts on the role of social media and the prevalence of bias in reports from the mainstream media. While Facebook is still globally the most popular platform for news — capturing 47% of the vote, this number has decreased in recent years. WhatsApp, however, has seen a 15% jump in popularity as a news source just in the last year. In Malaysia, for example, 51% of ppl use it to get their daily dose of news.
WhatsApp is more popular in Asia and Latin America than in the US, but it's growing prominence in the market signifies that it'll only become a more prevalent global news source in time. Who would've expected a messaging platform to become such a popular news source?
Actually, it makes sense if you consider the present political climate.
This rise in WhatsApp's popularity signifies growing distrust of mainstream media and a global frustration with the fake news phenomenon that's overtaken social media. The study's findings show that under 40% of people trust traditional news media, and only 24% of respondents think social media effectively distinguishes between real and fake news.
Keeping this in mind, it's no surprise that messaging platforms like WhatsApp are becoming more and more prominent sources of news. They provide users with safe spaces to discuss news with people they know and trust. Moreover, WhatsApp specifically has features that make it well-equipped for this. It's free and thus accessible to many, and it allows for encryption which benefits those in areas where it's dangerous to openly discuss politics.
When you consider these factors, it makes sense that WhatsApp is becoming more and more people's top choice for news. With 1.2 billion active monthly users, WhatsApp's massive popularity indicates that its rise to dominance has only just begun.