Reports show close to 70% of Norwegian youth consider social media to be one of their most important sources for news. Through our intensive work with TikTok the last six months, we have learned the importance of being visible on the app.
We are the biggest news destination in Norway, and we have a big social responsibility, especially in regard to reaching the younger generation with our news. Both information and disinformation spread quickly on TikTok, and young people are often the first to hear about major international events, given their presence on social media.
In research conversations, we learned that many of our youngest readers first heard about the demonstrations in Iran after Masha Amini’s death through TikTok. Among the masses of unverified and fake news, it is important that the path to quality-assured journalism is short.
One 18-year-old we spoke to in our user interviews said, “If I see that VG has written about it, I know that it has really happened. I trust VG.”
TikTok is here to stay
TikTok is important for us for many reasons, especially in our work to build our brand with young users. In the past, youths were reminded of VG’s existence by seeing the newspaper on the table at home. When the newspaper is digitalised, we have to present ourselves elsewhere, which is why we are on TikTok.
On TikTok, we can have a close dialogue with our target group, get feedback, answer questions, and be available. Nowhere else are young people as active in the comments section as they are on TikTok. On TikTok, we have the chance to get an immediate response to our content. It is a way for us to develop our content and build a relationship with our readers.
It is not easy to report news on TikTok. TikTok’s algorithms can be challenging, and we cannot prioritise news the way we can on our own platforms. Some topics we feel are important are difficult to spread on TikTok, given the algorithms.
At the same time, TikTok is setting a new industry standard. We believe TikTok is going to change our video habits and that it will shape how we produce video news in the future. It is certain that TikTok is here to stay. Even if it’s not in the app, the format will remain consistent.
To a greater extent, we have to think about height format first. We can use the content we create for TikTok on several of VG’s platforms, such as our Web sites, other social media channels, and external screens in the public where we broadcast news.
It has to feel like a TikTok
We also know that on TikTok we have a short time to capture viewers’ attention. Entertaining competitors are just a swipe away. Therefore, a stopping effect is important. We learned this through several user interviews with Norwegian high school students, who we asked to evaluate our content on TikTok and give their unfiltered feedback.
We have worked a lot on finding the right balance in how we present the news and how we use reporters to do so. Young people we have spoken to tell us that seeing the face of the reporter builds trust and makes them experience the news as more credible. In addition, it is seen as positive that our videos on TikTok look like other videos on the app and do not stand out too much in the feed.
It has to feel like a TikTok. But many experience that something “long, heavy, and boring is coming up” when they see a reporter in the picture. To balance this is difficult, but we try to adapt. Among other things, we do not use a face in the first seconds of the video. As an 18-year-old told us in a research interview: “It is not the reporter who is the most exciting thing about the case.”
Showing our faces and creating content specially adapted to TikTok is probably not the solution to declining credibility in journalism alone.
We’re not the coolest on the app
In Norway, nationwide surveys show that young people have a high level of trust in the national media. Nevertheless, 20% of youth believe Norwegian national media sometimes deliberately conveys fake news. Boys are more skeptical than girls, according to the report Opinion Ung2023. Seventy-four percent of young Norwegians have a high level of trust in the media. Globally, the number is 43%.
In addition, it’s important for us not to think we’re the coolest on the app. VG is perceived as “the adults,” and we have to accept that role. Instead of pretending to be just another young user, we try to be a good friend or an older sibling who can tell them what’s going on in the world in a trustworthy way.
We believe that having a presence on TikTok, answering questions, being transparent and honest, and covering topics that young people are particularly interested in will allow us to gain credibility in the long run. The youth have high expectations of the content they’re watching, and we are lucky when we get their attention.