No question, social media played a big role in disseminating information about bin Laden's death. As noted in my post about bin Laden's death on Monday, I got my first notification via a Facebook update (on a mobile device). And many of the responses to my impromptu survey showed a similar pattern: out of 21 total respondents, eight (38%) said they received their first notification about the news via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and World of Warcraft forums (I love that last one). Four respondents (19%) said they got their first notification via online media, including three (14%) who received it in the form of a news update from an iPad or smartphone app.
However, this hardly spells the end of traditional media when it comes to news consumption. For one thing, seven respondents (33%) said they found out from TV news, and two (9%) via word-of-mouth through phone calls. Meanwhile it was interesting to see where people went to learn more about the killing of bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALS: regardless of how they first found out, 13 respondents (62%) said they next went to broadcast or cable TV news to get more information. Even more telling, five respondents (24%) said they watched TV while simultaneously checking online sources including social media.
Of course it's worth noting that the potential pool of respondents for my survey -- and indeed many of the other online surveys -- was highly self-selecting, skewing towards tech-savvy media types. More balanced results should be available from professional polling services, including one survey by the Washington Post and Pew Research Center which found that 58% of U.S. adults found out from TV, compared with 11% for the Internet, including just 6% for social media (equal to radio). 15% said they found out through word-of-mouth.
One of the remarkable results from all these surveys, professional or otherwise, is the very small proportion of U.S. adults who learned about the news from newspapers: just 3% in the Washington Post-Pew poll, and not a single person in my own survey.