The scale is tipping from traditional media to social media as a source for news. That’s the conclusion reached in a new study published on Thursday by Pew Research Center.
Pew surveyed over 4,600 people who told them that they’re increasingly using their favorite social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even Snapchat — as their go-to sources for news. According to the study, News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016, 62% of all Americans now get news from social media.
Proportionally, Facebook, which has 222 million monthly active users across the U.S. and Canada (1.6 billion worldwide), is the No. 1 go-to source for news among social media sites. According to the study, 66% of Facebook’s U.S. audience gets their news from the site. It’s an interesting and timely stat, considering Facebook’s recent Trending Topics controversy.
The social network came under fire recently when former Trends contractors alleged that they might have been filtering out some right-leaning news sources. Facebook denied the accusations, but ultimately changed how it filters Trending Topics.
This is actually the second time Pew has conducted this study. The first was in 2013, and it noted growth in social platforms as news sources across virtually all the surveyed platforms.
Facebook, notably, saw the biggest jump (47% versus 66%).
that people are gathering their news from these platforms reminds the media about ‘about the importance of being on various platforms and connecting with them there’
Reddit actually boasts the largest percentage of users who say they turn to it for news (70%), but its user base is much, much smaller than Facebook’s.
More than half of Twitter’s users say they turn to the micro-blogging platform for news, but the numbers didn’t change much in the last three years (59% versus 52% in 2013), which may make sense since Twitter’s user growth has all but stalled.
Likely few will be shocked by these findings, certainly not those who have been following the media industry for years. “I’m not surprised that people are [getting] their information from the platforms they’re on and what they’re exposed to,” said Sree Sreenivasan.
A social media and digital exert, Sreenivasan worked as a journalist for over two dozen years and is currently The Metropolitan Museum’s Chief Digital Officer.
The fact that people are gathering their news from these platforms reminds the media about “about the importance of being on various platforms and connecting with them there,” said Sreenivasan.
As for concerns about whether news found on chosen social media platforms might only reinforce persisting views, Sreenivasan told me that concern is not new, either. When blogs arrived nearly two decades ago, readers quickly adopted those that may have conformed their worldview, and ignored those that didn’t. “We used to talk about blogs and the echo chamber of blog, reading what they’re comfortable with and not leaning across the aisle,” said Sreenivasan.
It’s up to the reader, he said, to be aware of who they read and don’t read.
Who reads the news
17% of Snapchatters report getting news from the ephemeral platform
The study also reveals who is getting their news from these platforms. As you might expect, LinkedIn, which 19% of its users tap for news, has the largest majority of college educated users (65%, outpacing the U.S. average of 28%), while YouTubers have the fewest college degrees. Of the platforms surveyed, Facebook and Instagram are the most heavily female, 57% and 65%, respectively. Instagram, by the way, has, by far, the youngest audience, with 58% between 18 and 29.
Those surveyed also reported getting news from Yahoo’s Tumblr, Vine(!) and Snapchat, which didn’t even make it onto the 2013 survey. Now 17% of Snapchatters report getting news from the ephemeral platform, which should be music to the ears of all the media companies (including Mashable) who are currently filling the Snapchat Discover digital magazine platform.
The Met’s Sreenivasan told me he has twin 13-year-olds who are begging to be on Snapchat. “They say their friends know what’s going on because they’re on Snapchat.”
It isn’t all bad news for traditional media. The Pew Study notes that the very same people who are either accidentally finding news on these platforms or purposefully turning to them each day for news, also pay attention to traditional media. 39% of Facebook users still watch the local news. 15% of them actually still read newspapers. Contrast that with the 8% of Twitter users who still consume content from print.
Even so, it’s clear the trend of people getting news from social media will continue and expand.
“We’ll see this come more into focus in the years ahead as these platforms become more dominant in our lives,” said Sreenivasan.
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