Facebook Users Also Get News From Social Net

People end up getting news from Facebook even when it’s not why they go on the social network. The social network exposes people to news who otherwise might not get it. While only 38% of heavy news consumers say the site is an important news source, that figure rises to 47% among those who follow news less closely.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation examining the role of news on the world’s largest online social network.

The survey found that almost two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use Facebook, and about half (47%) of those say they “ever” get news or headlines on the site. That means 30% of the overall population gets news on Facebook. Within this group, 78% say they mostly get news when they’re on the social network for other reasons, like connecting with friends or sharing photos.

“People go to Facebook to share personal moments -- and they discover the news almost incidentally,” said Amy Mitchell, the Pew Center’s director of journalism research. “The serendipitous nature of news on Facebook may actually increase its importance as a source of news and information, especially among those who do not follow the news closely.”

Young people (ages 18-29), who tend to follow news less than older users on other platforms, are as engaged -- if not more so -- with news on Facebook. They account for about a third (34%) of news consumers on the social network, and turn there as often for breaking news as older age groups.

People who follow news on Facebook still access other platforms at roughly the same rate as the general population. Four in 10 (42%) often watch local TV news and 23% often watch cable news. But only 21% of Facebook news consumers often read print newspapers, compared to 27% of the overall population.

Among other key findings from the study:

Roughly half -- 49% -- of Facebook news consumers regularly get news on six or more different topics.
The most popular topic is entertainment news, followed regularly by 73% of Facebook news consumers on the site. Close behind is news about events in one’s own community (65%), followed by sports (57%)

About two-thirds (64%) say they at least sometimes click on news links, and 60% at least sometimes like or comment on stories.
More than four in 10 (43%) post or share links at least sometimes, and 32% discuss issues in the news with other people on Facebook.

News outlets rank low among the reasons Facebook news consumers click on news links.
The biggest single reason for clicking on links, cited by 70%, was interest in a given topic. That was followed by finding a story entertaining (51%) or surprising (50%), while 37% clicked because of a friend’s recommendation.

Facebook news consumers who “like” or follow news organizations or journalists show high levels of news engagement.
About a third (34%) of Facebook news consumers have news organizations or individual journalists in their feeds. Those who do are more likely to see the site as an important way to get news than those who do not have news organizations or journalists in their feed (54% versus 38%).

In the U.S., the desktop/laptop computer is still the main way that most adults access Facebook.
Fully 59% of all adult Facebook users mostly access the site through a PC rather than a mobile device. But the gap is narrower among Facebook news consumers, with 53% accessing the site on the desktop versus 46% via mobile.

The Pew study was based on a survey of 5,173 adults conducted from Aug. 21 to Sept. 2 this year. 

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