Commentary

Three in Ten Americans Get News from Facebook

Social media is one of the main sources of news for American adults, and Facebook is easily the most popular social media venue for getting news, according to Pew Research. However, visitors who are referred by social media tend to be significantly less engaged with news sites than people who visit them directly.

Overall 64% of U.S. adults currently use Facebook, and just under half of these (30%) say they get news on the site, Pew found. By comparison 51% of adults use YouTube, and just 10% get news there. Twitter takes third place in terms of news, with 16% of adults using it and 8% getting news there. Next is Google+ in fourth place, with 14% of adults using it and 4% getting news there. Finally, LinkedIn comes fifth in terms of news, with 19% of adults using it and 3% getting news there.

It’s worth noting that most Facebook users who get news say this is an incidental activity: 78% say they generally see news when they are on Facebook for other reasons. That difference is reflected in disparities when it comes to time spent with news: analyzing comScore data, Pew found that users who come to a news site via Facebook generally spend just a third as much time on the site as users who visit the site directly (1 minute 41 seconds versus 4 minutes 36 seconds, respectively. Direct visitors also view over five times the number of pages per month, at 24.8 pages versus 4.2 pages for visitors referred by social media.

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Turning to categories, while Facebook users get a range of news on the site, “less serious” news tends to dominate, with 73% of news consumers getting entertainment news and 57% getting sports news. However 65% use it to get local community news and 55% use it to get national and government news. 51% use it to get news about crime and 46% use it for news about health and medicine.

In terms of social behaviors, half of social network users say they share news stories, images, or video online, and 46% have used it to discuss something in the news. Meanwhile a smaller number of social media users are actually participating in reporting the news, with 14% posting their own photos or accounts of news events to a social network, and 12% posting video.

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