Broadcast journalism is evolving. For the second year running, TikTok has clinched the title of the UK’s fastest-growing source of news in 2023, according to Ofcom’s latest annual news consumption report.
In 2020, a mere 1 per cent of UK adults aged 16 and over turned to TikTok for their news. Fast forward to 2022, and that number has risen to 3.9 million (around 7 per cent of the total population). A staggering 10 per cent of individuals aged 16 and above admitted to getting their daily news fix from the app, surpassing giants like BBC Radio 1, at just 8 per cent.
TikTok content creator Dylan Page is at the helm of this new style of news reporting. He’s far from your run-of-the-mill news anchor—with an expressive and casual style, making current affairs feel as engaging and conversational as a chat over a pint. And yet, as the largest news channel on the platform, his choice to ditch the stern suit-and-tie rhetoric for a more personal reporting style has been a success.
But why exactly is a generation of young people opting to get their news from TikTok creators as opposed to more traditional sources? And should we be alarmed by this new trend?
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year and haven’t had Dylan Page’s face appear on your TikTok FYP yet, let me fill you in.
Dylan Page, also known as ‘News Daddy’, is a content creator best known for his snappy and engaging content covering current affairs and news content. He’s regarded as the biggest news channel on the platform, with 9.6 million followers, and counting.
Don’t let this fool you though, he’s far from the traditional news anchor. While pinning Page to a label is difficult, it’s safe to say that he falls somewhere between a commentator and journalist—with a casual and engaging style that’s hooked a whole generation.
In the face of Dylan Page’s meteoric rise, it begs the question: Why are young adults turning to TikTok for their news? Dr Gareth Longstaff, a lecturer in media and culture studies at Newcastle University, believes that a lot can be learned by looking at the broader social shift we’ve seen in media over recent years.
“There’s been a shift, obsession even, towards authenticity in content,” Longstaff tells SCREENSHOT. “In other words, the idea that if someone is more authenticating, it’s more real and more believable.”
“If you turn to the BBC or ITV, you still have that serious [form of journalism]—a middle-aged angle, if you will,” he adds. “I think that the level of believability and trust in that style of news anchor that existed from the 1920s up until around 10 years ago hasn’t disappeared, but it’s dissipating. People now expect a level of casualness that they didn’t before.”
Page, along with similar TikTok creators, seems to effortlessly nail this level of “casualness,” Longstaff hints. “He has a unique and casual style, delivering news wearing a T-shirt and having sexy hair. The style reminds me of what MTV was doing in the 1990s, with a very snappy, trendy, and cool news report.”
“I think storytelling and narrative here is really important too,” Longstaff continues. “What someone like Page does is take it away from the cold hard boring facts, and in a sense, storytellers, to his audience.”
But it’s not just the informality of the platform that appeals to younger viewers, it’s also its temporality. In other words, shorter user-generated content (UGC) on TikTok is simply more attractive than a long, drawn-out traditional news story—a style of news that Longstaff argues young people find “disengaging and boring.”
However, the success of News Daddy hasn’t come without controversy. While Page remains a one-man band, his widespread reach has ruffled the feathers of mainstream media giants like ITV.
In July 2023, Page revealed that ITV News had reached out to him for an interview for a report on how teenagers are turning away from legacy news in favour of TikTok news content.
While Page noted that the initial conversation he had with the ITV crew was overwhelmingly positive, he expressed his shock when the final report that aired on national television had a completely different angle.
“As soon as we open the first sentence is just straight bullets,” Page said in the clip he posted calling ITV out for spinning the story. “Despite them cutting and not showing my answer to misinformation on social media, they play this man’s answer which is just overwhelmingly negative.”
“They then talk about TikTok’s connection with China and then frame it like they’re getting this news from the app itself,” he continued. “Framing it like that just discredits all the amazing creators we have on there including professionals like doctors, dentists, lawyers, journalists and let’s not forget ITV themselves.”
It’s clear that the final story aired by ITV was overwhelmingly pessimistic. But was it justified? While there is an array of benefits for news content disseminated on TikTok—for instance, actually getting younger generations engaged with current affairs in the first place—relying on the video-sharing app solely for news has its drawbacks too.
While legacy news channels like the BBC and ITV have teams of skilled journalists dedicated to fact-checking and producing a story, Page is doing the bulk of the work himself. While this can be a positive, allowing for more authentic and personal forms of creator-led content, it can also lack the accuracy and legitimacy that legacy news brings.
“This is one of the dangers of social media. We live in a neoliberal age of individualism, where everything seems to stem from the self,” Longstaff agrees. “That can be quite toxic—it lends itself to a very angled and biased opinion, and opinion that’s very influencing too.”
This is a pattern that’s seen across the spectrum of social media, and isn’t just limited to the kind of news-leaning content that Page produces, Longstaff highlights. More than ever, from celebrity culture to lifestyle, people are relying on individual influence, which creates a “preempt or a benchmark” for viewers.
“It feeds into the idea that, for a generation of people, individual opinion becomes more powerful than a well-crafted and nuanced piece of journalism. In other words, it undercuts and undermines the reliability and craft of newsmaking in journalism,” he adds.
“Interestingly, when I look at television, I think it’s becoming polarised in some ways,” Longstaff explains, drawing on how vastly different the BBC and other TikTok accounts portray news content. “Everything is intersected, but the affordances of legacy news and TikTok news are increasingly different. But I think there’s space for both in this historical moment that we’re in.”
The rise of TikTok as a news source, led by creators like Page, reflects a shift toward more casual and engaging content. While legacy media giants like the BBC and ITV trail behind in engaging younger audiences, the platform’s creator-led approach also raises concerns about journalistic accuracy. Striking a balance between influence and reliability is the key in this evolving media landscape.