Roughly two out of three (64%) U.S. adults use Facebook, and nearly half of these (30% of total) get news from the social network, according to a new survey of 5,173 adults conducted by Pew in August and September. However, they’re not necessarily doing it on purpose: among those who get news on Facebook, just 22% think of it as a useful way to get news, while 78% say they encounter news while doing something else.
People who get news from Facebook were slightly less likely to get news from other sources than the general population: 42% of Facebook news consumers said they frequently watch local TV news, compared to 46% of all U.S. adults, and 23% said they often watch cable news, compared to 24% of all U.S. adults. A more marked disparity was seen in newspapers, with just 21% of Facebook news consumers saying they often read newspapers, compared to 27% of all U.S. adults.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook is a more important source of news for people who don’t pay much attention to news in the first place. Whereas 38% of heavy news consumers say Facebook is an important way to get news, that proportion rises to 47% of people who don’t follow the news as much. Meanwhile heavy Facebook users are more likely to encounter news on the site: 67% of people who use the site for at least an hour a day get news there, versus just 41% of people who spend less than an hour a day. Similarly, 65% of Facebook news consumers said they visit the site several times a day, compared with 29% of people who don’t get news on the site.
Turning to categories, the most popular topic is entertainment news, with 73% of Facebook news consumers getting entertainment news from the site, followed by 65% for local community news, 57% for sports, and 55% for national politics and government. Just 28% of Facebook news consumers say they turn to the site for breaking news.
Contrary to fears that Facebook is competing with news organizations, the social network is actually referring a good number of users to news sites who might not otherwise visit them: 64% of Facebook news consumers say they sometimes click on news links, with 16% saying they do so often. In good social media fashion, Facebook news consumers also share news with their friends, with 60% sometimes liking or commenting on stories, and 19% doing so often, and 43% posting or sharing links themselves.