Getting News On Facebook Is An Incidental Experience

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 47% of adult Facebook users “ever” get news there. That amounts to 30% of the population. Most U.S. adults do not go to Facebook seeking news, the online survey of 5,173 adults finds. Instead, 78% of Facebook news consumers get news when they are on Facebook for other reasons. Only 4% say it is the most important way they get news.

One respondent summed it up, saying, “I believe Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it.”

However, the survey shows that Facebook exposes some people to news who otherwise might not get it. While only 38% of heavy news followers who get news on Facebook say the site is an important way they get news, that figure rises to 47% among those who follow the news less often.

In particular, younger adults (18-29 year-olds,) are engaged with news on Facebook, accounting for 34% of Facebook news consumers. That outpaces the 20% among Facebook users who do not get news on the site, says the report. In addition, these 18- to 29 year-olds who get news on Facebook across topics at roughly the same levels as older age groups, turn there as often for breaking news, and deem the site as an important source of news.

The report opines that it may be the very incidental nature of the site that ultimately exposes more people to news, since the more time one spends on the site, the more likely they are to get news there. 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.

Other key findings in this report by the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the Knight Foundation, examining the role of news on Facebook and other social media platforms, are:

  • 42% of Facebook news consumers often watch local television news, as do 46% of all U.S. adults; 23% often watch cable news (compared with 24% of all U.S. adults). But, only 21% of Facebook news consumers often read print newspapers, compared with 27% of the population overall
  • Those who consume news on Facebook are more active on the site than other users by nearly every measure. 77% are driven to the platform to see what friends are up to (compared with 60% of other Facebook users), 49% go to chat with friends and family (versus 29%) and 26% go to post personal updates (versus 9%). In addition, 65% of those who get news on Facebook visit the site several times a day, compared with 29% of other Facebook users
  • 49%, of Facebook news consumers get news on six or more different topics. The most popular topic is entertainment news, which 73% of Facebook news consumers get regularly on the site. Close behind is news about events in one’s own community (65%). National politics and government rank fourth, reaching 55% of these consumers regularly, just behind sports, which reaches 57% regularly. Still, Facebook has yet to become a platform for learning about news events as they happen, says the report. Just 28% of Facebook news consumers have ever turned there for breaking news
  • 64% of Facebook news consumers at least sometimes click on news links (16% do so often). 60%, at least sometimes “like” or comment on stories (19% do so often). 43% post or share links themselves at least sometimes (10% do so often), and 32% discuss issues in the news with other people on Facebook (6% do so often)
  • 70% say interest in the topic as a major reason to click on news links. Half of the respondents say finding the story entertaining or surprising is a major reason. 37% say a friend’s recommendation is a major reason. The link that came from a news organization they preferred is cited by just 20% as a major reason for clicking
  • 31%, of Facebook news consumers generally prefer news that shares their own point of view, slightly higher than the 27% of U.S. adults who say the same. And, when asked about things that bother them on Facebook, twice as many Facebook news consumers are bothered when people post political statements than when people post opinions about something in the news (32% versus 14%)

For additional information about the survey, please visit Pew Research here.



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