What Welsh charities need to know about Ofcom’s latest media survey

News media are a key part of any charity campaigner’s toolkit. And while many bemoan the weakness of Welsh media, there are plenty of opportunities to secure useful media coverage for your work.

So Ofcom’s latest News Consumption Survey Wales is a useful tool to can help make strategic connections between campaign objectives, audiences and tactics.

Unfortunately, the pandemic means this latest survey isn’t directly comparable with previous reports, but it still yields some interesting trends.

TV news still helps you reach way more people than the internet

TV remains the most-used platform for news for Welsh adults and – perhaps surprisingly – most of us still don’t access the news online. 74% of us still turn to television to find out what’s happening, with BBC 1 and ITV Wales attracting the biggest shares of viewing. That’s still well ahead of news websites/apps (48%) and social media (46%).

While TV coverage won’t be right for every campaign, if your aim is to secure big reach and influence for your charity’s campaign, or target groups less likely to use the internet, then think seriously about whether you can use it to your advantage. Check out my previous blogpost on how you can improve your chances.

Your social media posts aren’t a replacement for news coverage

Nearly half (46%) of Welsh adults use social media for news, mainly Facebook and Twitter. But according the the UK Ofcom report, people are mainly using these platforms to look at content from more traditional sources:

“News consumed on social media is more likely to be from news organisations than ‘friends/family’ or ‘others you follow’.”

It’d be interesting to know what counts as ‘news’ here, but the important point is that it would be a mistake to see the rise of social media as a news source in these surveys as being instead of traditional journalism. Articles on news websites and video posts from broadcasters’ own social media channels are a big part of what people are reading, sharing and talking about online.

For your charity campaign, consider how you can create content for news outlets that will work on social media. Think about the social media presence of your target news outlet, and how the public might engage with it. And build a social media plan that factors in any news coverage you may get.

Getting BBC Wales coverage will give your campaign a major boost

Again, it depends on the context, but securing BBC attention remains the ‘jewel in the crown’ for many Welsh charity campaigns. Not only does the BBC dominate TV news, but 31% use the BBC news website/app and 10% of us tune in to Radio Wales or Radio Cymru for the latest bulletins. And the BBC has a massive social media presence and influence. Grabbing the interest of a BBC Wales reporter could get you cross-platform coverage, with reach unrivalled by other media outlets.

Newspapers & news sites: the Guardian is hot on the heals of its tabloid rival in Wales

Despite broadcast dominance, newspaper coverage still has plenty of value for Welsh charity campaigns. Written content still works best for many types of story, and the papers have a decent share of the news audience. Once apps and websites are taken into account alongside the print edition, the Daily Mail ranks top in Wales (18%), with the Guardian in close second place (17%), thanks largely to its website. The Western Mail/Wales Online is in 4th place on 9%.

Getting UK-wide newspaper coverage for a Welsh charity isn’t easy, and while that option shouldn’t be written off, Wales Online will remain a go-to for campaigners, especially considering its large social media presence.

New(s) Kids On The Block – opening up more options for Welsh charities

While outside the scope of the Ofcom survey, it feels right to mention two relative newcomers to the Welsh media scene.

In recent years we’ve seen the rise of two new English-language news websites in Wales: Nation.Cymru and The National Wales, with the latter having launched a weekly print edition too. These outlets don’t appear to have been specifically named in the Ofcom survey work, which simply lists ‘Wales-based news websites or apps’ which are used by 10% of adults.

It’s probably fair to assume that despite respectable audiences and rapid growth, they’ve not yet caught up with their more established rivals.

Looking at Twitter following, at the time of writing (July 2021), The National Wales has around 13,500 Twitter followers, Nation.Cymru has 23,000 and Wales Online has 270,000. Of course, that’s just one social media platform, and it doesn’t illustrate how engaged those followers are, or the number of readers or page views. Indeed, Nation.Cymru just hit a major milestone:

It would certainly be wise for charity campaigners to consider these sites as part of the communications mix. Whatever the true audience size, their content is creating a lot of buzz.

Conclusions

Most of us in Wales follow the news media in some form, mainly watching BBC and ITV. Around half of us now access news online too, with smaller but still sizeable numbers reading newspapers and listening to radio news.

Welsh Charity campaigners looking for national reach and influence should consider BBC Wales or ITV Wales coverage. But in an increasingly digital world, we need to think about how our story will work online. A strong story and content on any internet news site could be very widely shared, regardless of whether people normally pay attention to that medium.

The survey also shows us that a minority continue to access a bigger variety of news sources such as radio, print newspapers and news websites. These give us more scope to reach smaller, but potentially critical audiences for our campaigns.

As always, making your decisions based on your wider objectives/tactics and well-defined audiences is key. It’s not about how many you reach, but engaging the right people and creating the right impression.

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