Social media has passed television as the most popular source of news for young adults, according to a new survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which asked approximately 50,000 people around the world about their news consumption habits. The findings echo the results of other studies indicating a sweeping change in how people of all ages -- but especially in younger age demos -- get their news.
Among American adults ages 18-24 polled by Reuters, 28% said they get most of their news from social media -- ahead of TV, cited by 24% of the same age group. Not surprisingly, the proportion is even higher when people look for news on smartphones, with 48% of U.S. online adults naming social media as their main news source on mobile, followed by a news Web site or app at just 23%. Other options including news aggregators, email and online video received even smaller percentages.
Facebook was by far the most popular source of news among social media sites -- also no surprise -- cited by 44% of respondents who get their news from social media, and was ahead of YouTube at 19%, Twitter at 10%, and WhatsApp at 8%.
Nor are consumers necessarily averse to having their news filtered by algorithms based on their own habits: 36% of all respondents globally said they would prefer news chosen based on what they have already read, and 22% said they would be fine reading news based on their friends’ reading habits. However, 30% believed human oversight is still necessary in picking which news is most relevant.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) get news from social media at least occasionally, up from 49% in 2012, according to a separate survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who polled 4,654 respondents in January and February of this year.
Other findings from the Reuters survey will not give news publishers much cause for cheer: around the world, just 10% of respondents from countries where English is spoken said they have ever paid for online news in the last year. Alongside data from some other recent surveys, this suggests that news publishers may indeed have shot themselves in the foot by giving away content for free in the early days of the Internet.This column was originally published in the Social Graf on June 15, 2016.