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Media study Most young Swiss keep informed online

Will this kid still watch TV as a grown-up? The Swiss trend in media consumption doubts it.

(Keystone/Christoph Schuerpf)

Social media is becoming increasingly dominant in the Swiss media industry, controlling not only consumer habits but also the advertising market. In addition, television is dying. These are the findings of the latest “Yearbook Quality of the Media” by the University of Zurich.

They are strong, they are dominant, they have money – and they are located outside the Swiss sphere of influence: the internet giants or “tech intermediaries”. They are social media platforms, especially Facebook and Google, that no longer merely serve as a means of keeping in touch with family and friends.

In Switzerland, the generation aged 15-24 sees Facebook and Co. as a true news medium: 24% say social media platforms are their main news source, behind the 34% who use online news sites as their main information channel. This means more than half of young media consumers get all their information digitally.

TV: dying slowly but surely

The generational divide becomes particularly evident when we take a look at television. While TV is still the primary source of information for 40% of users who are 55 and older, this is the case for only 14% of youngsters. A less-pronounced but still clear generational and thus future trend is obvious when it comes to printed newspapers. 

The shift into the digital sphere as well as the main social media platforms is also an economic one: according to the yearbook, Swiss media providers lag behind social media platforms with regard to ​data-based advertising. Thus, the lion’s share of Swiss advertising revenues in journalism goes to the likes of Facebook and Google. Additionally, private media houses invest less and less in professional information journalism.

Content quality on Facebook is often lower

Facebook also has an impact on the quality of what journalists offer. Because first and foremost entertaining and emotional content is shared and “liked”, online media houses have tended to place this part of their web output on these platforms. This often leads to a qualitative difference between what is offered online and what is offered on social media, the study states.

Exceptions are the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation,’s parent company, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, which holds its ground with high-quality content also on social media.

However, despite this structural change, the researchers generally attribute an increased quality to the Swiss online news portals. In general, in spite of difficult conditions, reporting quality in Switzerland is relatively high: public radio and television lead the field, followed closely by the Sunday newspapers and magazines.

The “Yearbook Quality of the Mediaexternal link” has been researched and published annually since 2010 by the Research Institute for the Public Sphereexternal link and Society at the University of Zurich.

The criteria for the quality research are relevance, pluralism, level of contextualisation and professionalism.

Part of the findings are based on the datasets from the Reuters Digital News Reportexternal link by the University of Oxford.

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