According to the 2011 report Navigating News Online, Facebook is becoming more important in regards to how news is shared - and Twitter, to a lesser extent, is likewise altering the way news material is spread, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. “If searching for news was the most important development of the last decade, sharing news may be among the most important of the next," according to Pew.
At the end of 2011, Facebook had 133 million "active users" in the U.S., users who check their accounts at least once a month, and these users spent roughly 423 minutes each on the site alone last December. Likewise, users spent about 12 minutes on the top 25 news sites that month. People are getting a lot of their news content via social networking.
It has been established that Facebook and Twitter are noted paths to news sources, but their role may not be as big as some have suggested. Social media offers a new path, but hasn't fully replaced traditional news outlets. People are still going directly to news sites, using news apps or plainly searching for stories. Also, Facebook users are getting stories from friends and family, while Twitter users are receiving more of a mix - stories from actual news sites, as well as friends.
Still, Facebook and Twitter are small drivers of news stories. Only 9% of U.S. users often follow stories they saw on Facebook or Twitter, compared to 36% who go straight to news websites. 29% of users turn to news-oriented apps. But, Facebook does have a lead on Twitter - 7% of users queried get their news from Facebook often, as opposed to 3% via Twitter.
And again, Twitter accounts for a broader mix of news recommendations. Facebook users get 70% of their news stories from friends and family, while 13% get their stories from news organizations. Regarding Twitter, the mix is more even, with 36% of users getting news from friends, and 27% from news sites.