News and Social Media: Their Slice of the Pie Is Growing

From its inception, social media has been associated with the young and the trendy updating their status in relationships, jobs, and more. But social media is increasingly the way people, including a growing number of older people, get news.

Two-Thirds of Americans Get News from Social Media

According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of adults in 2016 got news from social media. That’s a dramatic rise from 2012 figures when only slightly less than half of adults did.

Roughly 18% of adults get their news from social media often.

It’s not that adults are completely leaving traditional sources of news, such as newspapers and magazines, behind. But they aren’t going to newspapers often, either, on the whole. Only 20% read a newspaper often, the lowest of any traditional source. But, on the other hand, only 21% say they never looked at a newspaper, either.

“Newspaper” doesn’t mean a newsprint bundle hitting the porch, though. Nearly 75% of respondents indicate that they get their news from traditional sources via websites and apps. This was often correlated with use of social media, with over 50% of Facebook and Twitter participants, for example, getting digital/app news as well.

More than two-thirds of people who use social media for news use Facebook.

Facebook Leads the Pack

The survey included 9 social media sites: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube.

More than two-thirds of respondents got news from Facebook, making it the largest social media source of news. But it’s not a destination site for that purpose yet. Most of the two-thirds say they were on Facebook already, then checked the news.

That differs profoundly from both Twitter and Reddit, whose news-reading users actively go on the sites looking for news. More than half the users of each site are reading (or watching) news.

Interestingly enough, just over one-quarter of users get news from more than one social media site. Only 10% use three sites for news. So Facebook news junkies don’t often also search on Twitter, apparently, and vice versa.

The growth in adults using social media as a news source tracks the rise of them using social media altogether. The Pew Research Center began gathering data on the use of social media in 2005. At that point, only 5% of adults in the U.S. used even one social media site. Six years later, 50% did. According to the most recent figures, roughly 70% of Americans use social media.

For general use, Facebook is the most popular site. Intriguingly, while more people 18 to 29 years of age use Facebook than any other demographic group, at 88%, the use by senior citizens is surprisingly large, at 36%. Only 5%-6% of senior citizens use Instagram or Twitter.

What implications does the survey have for traditional news sources? One, clearly, is to pour energy into their digital sites and apps.

The other, though, is to place content on the large social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. It would seem to be a good business strategy move.

An increasingly large number of American adults get their news from social media sites, with Facebook being the most used for that purpose.