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New UC research shows Australian women are turning off traditional news

23 November 2023: New research from the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) shows that women are increasingly more disengaged with news than their male counterparts – with a caveat: the news they do engage with is predominantly from social media.

In a special issue of the Digital News Report: Australia 2023, UC researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis focusing on differences between Australian men and women, when it comes to news consumption and views on key news topics.

Lead researcher Dr Jee Young Lee said the special report aimed to better understand women’s engagement with news, after data from nine previous issues of the DNR consistently showed a gender gap.

“The data shows that Australian women consume news less frequently than men and are less likely to say they are interested in news – this gap in news interest in Australia is the widest in the world,” Dr Lee said.

As well as expressing lower interest in news, women are also more likely to actively avoid it.

News avoidance is high in Australia compared to other countries, but it is particularly high among Australian women, with 72 per cent of women avoiding news, compared to 67 per cent of men.

“These gaps in news consumption suggest that mainstream news may not be providing what women want,” Dr Lee said. “This may be due to a lack of relevance and poor representation of issues women care about.”

For example, the research finds that more than half of Australian women (55 per cent) say they want positive news, with a higher preference for culture, lifestyle and local news.

The report finds that only one in five women are interested in politics, compared to almost half of men. They are also less likely to engage in political discussions online (F 56 per cent; M 71 per cent).

Women also reported finding finance and economic news difficult to understand and apply to their own lives, and as such, turn to family and friends for advice as much as they access mainstream financial news.

While it appears that women are increasingly apathetic towards mainstream news brands, the report finds that when they are accessing news, it’s predominantly through social media.

This is higher for younger women; 59 per cent of Gen Z women in Australia use social media to get news, which is 12 percentage points (pp) higher than the global average for this cohort (47 per cent), with one in four Australian Gen Z women using TikTok as a source of news.

“The report points to a significant deficit in the types and topics of news that Australian female audiences are seeking in news media,” Dr Lee said.

“We’re seeing more and more women, especially among the younger cohorts, switching off mainstream news and turning to alternative sources of information such as social media platforms.

“News plays a vital role in fostering national identity, building social cohesion, and informing voters, so without news that speaks to them, there is a risk that women and minorities could become further disenfranchised from mainstream social and political debates.”