The Political Shift Away from Mainstream Media

For the past three decades, mainstream media outlets such as CNN, Fox News and NBC News dominated the political media landscape, while social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube provided a complementary channel for politicians and pundits to connect directly with voters and viewers. Now, there’s a rising trend to bypass mainstream media in favor of breaking news directly on social media, as digital platforms have become a go-to source for news and information for companies.

Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the launch of his Presidential Campaign exclusively on Twitter Spaces, an audio platform geared for Twitter users. While this was the first-ever presidential campaign announcement on Twitter, a series of glitches delayed the announcement and frustrated audiences.

Despite this hiccup, the recent announcement that top-rated cable host Tucker Carlson will be taking his hit television show to Twitter after his departure from Fox News is another example of how the popular social media channel is embracing its role as a news source. Other news commentary platforms are following with the announcement that Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire will put its podcasts, most of which are recorded as videos, on Twitter this week.

As American consumers, especially younger generations, shift away from the more traditional mainstream media for their news, social media companies like Twitter are shifting their business strategy and reinforcing their place in this new and evolving media landscape.

Twitter’s announcement that NBCUniversal’s longtime advertising sales chief Linda Yaccarino would serve as its new CEO supports the idea that Twitter is prioritizing video content as a critical part of its business strategy. With a strong background in streaming media and advertising, Yaccarino will likely help lead Twitter’s shift to prioritize video content on Twitter.

Investment in video content makes smart business sense. As consumers shift from traditional mainstream news sources, alternative news sources, like video podcasts, are becoming popular. According to data from Morning Consult, YouTube is now the most popular site for podcast consumption, with nearly half of podcast listeners (46%) preferring to consume podcasts with video.

Several former cable news hosts and commentators have also turned to the video podcast space in recent years. Take, for example, popular former Fox News and NBC host Megyn Kelly who now owns one of the most popular news commentary podcasts streaming through video on YouTube and other audio streaming options. As video podcasts grow in popularity, news organizations, including ESPN, NPR, and Slate, are some of the latest to report experimenting with watchable podcasts.

With demand for easily accessible and digestible news formats growing, the video-heavy platform TikTok is now competing with other social media channels more traditionally associated with news consumption, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The BBC reported that the number of people who consume news on TikTok has increased from 800,000 in 2020 to 3.9 million in 2022. Another Pew Research Center report from October 2022 found that about a quarter of U.S. adults under 30 regularly turn to TikTok to get their news.

As more Americans turn to social or other digital platforms for their news, the power of social media as a news source, serving as competition for traditional news media platforms, will continue to increase. We see that competition continues to grow today, especially among younger Americans.

An October 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that younger Americans today are just as likely to trust the information they receive from social media versus national news outlets. Findings showed that half of U.S. adults ages 18 to 29 stated they have some or a lot of trust in the information they get from social media sites, which ranked just below the 56% who expressed the same about information received from national news organizations.

But trust in social media for news remains lower among American adults 30 and over with the same Pew Research Center survey finding that only 36% of those ages 30 to 49, 25% of those ages 50 to 64, and 20% of those ages 65 and older stated that they are likely to trust news from social media sites.

With social media companies and big-name cable hosts and commentators setting their sights on harnessing the power of social media to bypass traditional media, the gap between younger and older Americans who turn to social media for their news is predicted to close in time, which will continue to disrupt the mainstream political media landscape.