For quite some time now, social media has been an increasingly popular source of news – especially breaking news – for millions of people. The number of people who find out about breaking news on Twitter as opposed to more traditional news sources has skyrocketed. Social media has become so popular as a news source, in fact, that the BBC issued new guidelines last month directing their journalists to make sure that they had breaking news reports in the hands of their BBC’s newsroom before posting about them on social media sites like Twitter.
Yet, while social media becomes increasingly popular as a source of news, it is still a long way from being most people’s primary source of news. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released the 2012 edition of their State of the News Media report, and it has some interesting information about how most people get their news online.
This year’s survey paid special attention to both the use of social media as a news source by digital device (computer, smartphone, tablet) users, and the news-related behavior of users of Facebook and Twitter.
Not surprisingly, Facebook users were far more likely than Twitter users to get their news from friends and family than from news organizations. Only 13% of people who got their news from Facebook got it from news organizations, while 70% got their news from friends and family. Meanwhile, only 36% of Twitter users got their news from friends and family, while 27% got it from new organizations or journalists. Also, Facebook users were far more likely to respond that they would have seen the news they get from friends and family elsewhere, while many Twitter users felt that without Twitter, they would have missed news.
The study also found that the role of Facebook and Twitter in driving news is not as great as it generally thought to be. More digital device users still get their news from news websites or keyword searches than by any other means. Thirty-six percent of respondents said that they get their news by going directly to a new organization’s site “very often,” while 32% said the same of keyword searches. Only 9% of respondents said they go to social media for news very often, and 29% said they go to web sites or apps that aggregate news (like Google News).
That data, however, includes those who said they did not get news from digital sources at all (i.e., people who only get news from TV, radio, or newspapers). When those respondents are excluded, the numbers change somewhat, but social media still falls behind. Among those who do access news digitally, 52% said they get news from social media, while 92% said they go directly to news sites and 85% use keyword searches.
Interestingly, the study also found that Facebook leads Twitter in digital news consumption. Significantly more respondents get news from Facebook “very often” than do so from Twitter (7% as opposed to 3%). Also, Twitter users were more likely to also get some news from Facebook than the other way around. Eighty-two percent of respondents who get news from Twitter also get news from Facebook, compared to 27% of Facebook users who get news from Twitter.
Twitter news does have some advantages, though. News on Twitter is regarded as more unique than that on Facebook. Also, Twitter news followers are much more mobile than Facebook news followers.
The Pew Center conducted this study in January 2012. Over the course of three phone surveys they interviews 3,016 adults. The full study is available here.
What do you think? Do you get more news from Twitter or from Facebook? What about news sites or searches? Let us know in the comments.