A new report reveals that cities should harness the power of culture to attract investment — as the most significant driver of online conversation around cities.  

Now in its sixth year, ‘The UK’s Most Talked About Cities 2024’ report by ING Media takes a deep-dive into the impact and value of cultural institutions, environmental initiatives, and the power of other key themes such as infrastructure and innovation, on a city’s investment prospects.

London, which retained its top position as the UK’s most talked about city for the 6th year running, accounted for almost half of all conversations tracked last year, up 4% from the previous year.

Liverpool came in second, followed by Manchester, with its visibility being driven by both sports and culture. The treble success of Manchester City FC, hosting of Davis Cup tennis matches, and Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show increased Manchester’s visibility by 12%.

Liverpool’s digital footprint reduced 23% from 2022 (despite hosting the Eurovision Song Contest), reflecting the importance of building momentum in content around global events. Newcastle is the greatest climber within the top ten cities, jumping from seventh to fourth position, with infrastructure and sport driving its content.

The top 10 ranking of the UK’s most talked about cities:

  1. London – the capital’s top story of 2023 was King Charles III’s Coronation;
  2. Liverpool – online content was led by sport (Liverpool FC) and culture;
  3. Manchester – cultural events and sport were the key drivers of searches around Manchester;
  4. Newcastle – the rise of Newcastle in the rankings was driven by infrastructure (Tyne bridge) and sport;
  5. Edinburgh – the Scottish capital’s digital mentions were powered by the environment (University veganism) and culture (Fringe Festival);
  6. Glasgow – the World Cycling Championships and health and wellbeing (Active Travel City
    Network) dominated Glasgow’s digital output;
  7. Birmingham – conversations around infrastructure (HS2 and BBC’s move to the Tea Factory) influenced online mentions for Birmingham;
  8. Nottingham – makes it into the top 10 (it was ranked 11 last year) due to culture (Halloween
    Festival) and regeneration (Broadmarsh plans) content;
  9. Leeds – Leeds’ ‘Year of Culture’, the Christmas market and City Square transformation helped to elevate online mentions;
  10. Sheffield – mentions were focused around the arts (The Leadmill’s potential closure) and regeneration (new city park).

The research found that culture is the number one driver of online conversations — and a critical tool for elevating a city’s brand — followed by business, sustainability, talent and technology. Interestingly, the fastest growing UK city for digital visibility is next year’s ‘Capital of Culture’, Bradford.

Bradford has been named as UK City of Culture 2025. Its year of culture is set to deliver more than 1,000 new performances and events including a series of major arts festivals.

Ranked themes, based on the total number of conversations they generated online:

  1. Culture – 25.6%
  2. Business – 20.7%
  3. Sustainability – 20.4%
  4. Talent – 19.3%
  5. Technology – 14%

Last year, ING created a bespoke ‘Soft Power’ index, which ranked 50 cities by influence of culture, travel, education, diversity and the environment. Deeper analysis revealed a strong correlation between a city’s ranking on their Soft Power index and the volume of conversations around inward investment.

The top ten cities for ‘soft power’ account for 85% of all inward investment conversations.

ING Media’s study of the UK’s Most Talked About Cities (2024) covered 50 cities and ranked them by digital mentions across 2023. These mentions originate from online news, ‘X’ (Twitter), forums, blogs, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, comments and reviews.

Investors consider a wide range of city characteristics and behaviours when assessing its attractiveness as an investment opportunity, including growth rate of businesses and jobs, skill-level of the workforce, quality of education, as well as the quality of the city environment, and its liveability.

A strong economy with growth potential, excellent transport connections, and pro-growth city leadership are also key. Cultural initiatives, sport and creative industries have the power to generate significant financial income for cities, and positively influence problematic areas through renovation, sustainable planning, design and building.

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