Social Media: Where More And More Americans Get Their News

Start spreading the news…

I’m Tweeting today!

I want to be a part of it…

Facebook, Facebook!

OK. That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as The Original. Not even close.

But it is Friday, after all. And we enjoyed writing that.

And hopefully it piqued your interest a little bit.

Now that we’ve got your attention, we’d like to hit you with some statistics. And a little bit more “hard news,” if you will.

According to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 47% of adult Facebook users in the United States (which amounts to around 30% of the entire U.S. population) get news on Facebook.

There’s a catch, however.

The survey of 5,173 American adults discovered that most U.S. Facebook users “do not go to Facebook seeking news out”…but rather encounter news on the world’s largest social networking platform as “a common but incidental experience.”

In other words, the vast majority of these Facebook news consumers – some 78% – get news while they are on Facebook for other reasons. In the words of one survey respondent:

“I believe Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it.”

Of course, the more time one spends on Facebook, the more likely he or she is to come across at least some news. According to the survey, 67% of those who use Facebook for at least an hour a day get news there, compared with only 41% of those who spend less than an hour a day on the site.

The survey also revealed that while 38% of “heavy news followers” (traditionally referred to as “newshounds”) who get news on Facebook say the site is an important way they get news, that figure rises nearly 10 percentage points to 47% among “those who follow the news less often.”

Other interesting findings include the revelation that 34% of “Facebook news consumers” are young adults (classified as 18-29 years in age) who “deem the site as an important source of news;” and the fact that those who consume news on Facebook are not only more active on the social networking site than other users by nearly every measure, but also tend to visit Facebook “several times a day” (some 65%, compared to 29% of other, non-news consumer Facebook users).

This fascinating survey served as a bit of a contrast to another survey conducted by the same research groups, this one involving social media platform Twitter, which continues to make more and more headlines of its own. According to this survey, Twitter is used for news by more than half of its users (52%, to be exact) – but that total amounts to only 8% of the total U.S. adult population, since Twitter has a relatively small number of American users (49 million monthly active U.S. users in the second quarter of 2013, compared to 198 million monthly active U.S. Facebook users in that same time period).

So even though Facebook isn’t viewed and used as a source of “breaking news” nearly to the degree that now-publicly traded Twitter is, its sheer size and American adoption means that it dominates (30% of U.S. adults to 8%) in terms of total Americans getting news via the respective social networks.

The survey also revealed that news consumers on Twitter tend to skew not only younger (some 45% of Twitter news users are 18-29 years old), but more mobile. The vast majority – some 85% –get news at least “sometimes” on mobile devices, which outpaces Facebook by 20 percentage points, and compares to around 40% of news consumers overall turning to mobile.

Journalists themselves are increasingly active on social media, particularly on Twitter, which many have heavily utilized for years now, due largely to its more basic and “no-nonsense” structure and natural tendency toward a more “breaking news” kind of culture.

Meanwhile, an established, “old news” outlet that has seen drastic reductions in its reach, penetration and power over the past several years seems to have found an interesting new life online.

That’s right, newspapers (remember them?), long the staple of American journalism and source of breaking news before the advent of the internet, are now setting new traffic records via the medium they initially refused to acknowledge or migrate over toward.

(Even if Google is now bigger than both the newspaper and magazine industries. But that’s a whole other story...)

Newspapers set a digital traffic record in September, 2013, with 141 million U.S. adults visiting a newspaper website or using a newspaper mobile app. That impressive figure was up a full 11% over June, 2013, and represents 71% of America’s total online adult population – defined as the total number of adults accessing any type of digital content.

The digital newspaper growth rate was even more impressive among mobile users, with the number of U.S. adults who only use mobile devices – including smartphones and tablets – to access digital news content rocketing 22% from 27 million in June to 33 million in September. That September total represented a full 23% of newspapers’ total digital audience.

Of course, as these figures continue to rise, newspapers will also move more and more of their advertising efforts to the digital and mobile spaces, which is keeping in line with the general trend of online and mobile advertising and marketing growth all across America.

What do YOU think about all of this news? How often do you use social media to get your news fix? And do you prefer to use Facebook? Twitter? Or online newspaper sites?

We’d love to hear from you on this one. Let us know in the comments section below this blog post.

And stay tuned for more great social media, digital marketing and SEO news. We’re also on Twitter too. Follow us!

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