The gender split in news consumption: A case of discovery?

Surveys regularly show that men and women differ in both the type of news they seek out and how they consume it. While many might put these differences down to social conditioning encouraging one gender to favour specific topics over another, there also evidence that the different channels favoured by men and women play a role (of course, the difference in preferred channels could itself be down to social conditioning).

Content differences

According to the Pew Research Centre, there are differences in the type of news content consumed by men and women, with men scoring higher on politics and sports content while women were more likely to consume entertainment and lifestyle news, and that’s a split that doesn’t appear to have changed since Pew published their News Consumption Survey back in 2008.

The Reuters Institute similarly indicates that there is a variance in the type of news that men and women generally tend to consume:

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That’s evidently the case for news content in magazines, too, with Grazia having a 97.2 percent female readership, and Q magazine being weighted 68.3 percent towards a male readership. Some content evidently appeals more to women than to men in the UK. And while there’s a cultural history behind why that might be the case, that’s not an area we’re going to delve into here.

Content discovery

What we are going to look at is evidence that what kind of news men and women consume is to some extent shaped by how they find it.  

The Reuters study notes that this year it introduced a category of ‘weird news’ to which its survey participants could express interest, and that women were more likely (36 percent to 23 percent) to express an interest in consuming it. It further notes that sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy are where that type of content is typically published, which might explain why Alexa’s data shows that the proportion of female visitors to the site are above the average.

Both those sites are, famously, extremely dependent on referrals from social media. And there’s supporting research from Pew that suggests women are, in fact, more likely than men to discover news content on social media (at least among the general public rather than hardcore social media users). So that could explain why the female proportion of the audience on sites where content is primarily discovered through social is so high.

Plaftorm paradigms

Despite the fact that Statista data shows more women than men own iPads in the UK (and that smartphone adoption rate is relatively equal), research from Ofcom actually shows that men are more likely to consume news on the internet than woman. That suggests that, although women are more exposed to the type of “weird news” and entertainment content found on BuzzFeed and UpWorthy (if what Reuters suggests is true) for celebrity and entertainment news, they still prefer to consume news of other genres on different platforms. 

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And though the Ofcom study doesn’t cite exactly what it considers to be ‘news’, that suggests that when it comes to explaining why BuzzFeed and UpWorthy’s audience is so much more female than other sites, the method of discovery matters much more than which platform on which that content is consumed. That’s backed up by research by the American Press Institute that states:

“Women are both more likely to discover news on social media (49 percent vs. 39 percent) and share news with friends through email, text message, or other online methods (50 percent vs. 41 percent).”

It could simply be, then, that the seeming disparity between the equal amount of women and men who have access to connected devices and the fact that men actually consume more news on those types of devices could be explained by the following statement: Women in the UK prefer to discover their news through social means, and certain types of digital content (that of BuzzFeed and Upworthy etc.) are simply more shareable than others.

Ultimately, the difference in the type of news content men and women consume could be as much about how they find news as what they are intrinsically interested in.

By |2014-12-05T14:00:00+00:00December 5th, 2014|Analysis|Comments Off on The gender split in news consumption: A case of discovery?

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