Americans Increasingly Turn to Facebook, Twitter for Daily News

A recent survey found that 63 percent of both Twitter and Facebook users now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.

by Nandita Mathur, Mint, New Delhi / July 21, 2015

(TNS) -- More Americans get news on Twitter and Facebook than in the past, according to a new report by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The survey of 2,035 U.S. adults sheds light on Americans’ evolving news and information habits on the two platforms and found that 63 percent of both Twitter and Facebook users now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.

Although both social networks have the same portion of users getting news on these sites, there are significant differences in their potential news distribution strengths. For example, 59 percent of users say they follow breaking news on Twitter, as opposed to 31 percent who do so on Facebook, lending credence to the fact that Twitter’s great strength is providing as-it-happens coverage and commentary on live events.

The Pew report comes at a time when the two social media platforms are increasing their emphasis on news. Twitter is set to unveil its long-rumoured news feature, Project Lightning. The feature will allow anyone, irrespective of whether they are a Twitter user or not, to view a feed of tweets, images and videos about live events as they happen, curated by a bevy of new employees with “newsroom experience.”

“It’s a brand-new way to look at tweets,” says Kevin Weil, senior vice-president of product at Twitter. “This is a bold change, not evolutionary.”

Earlier this year, Twitter also purchased and launched the live video-streaming app Periscope, sharpening their focus on providing information about live events as they happen.

Meanwhile, in May, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a trial project that allows media companies to publish stories directly on the Facebook platform instead of linking to outside sites, and, in late June, Facebook started introducing its “trending” sidebar to allow users to filter by topic and see only trending news about politics, science and technology, sports or entertainment.

Here are five key takeaways from the report:

More users getting news on both sites

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Facebook users and the same share of Twitter users get news via each of the social media sites. This is up substantially from 2013, when only 47% of Facebook users and 52% of Twitter users reported getting news on the respective platforms. In both studies, Pews defined news as “information about events and issues beyond just friends and family”. This increase in exposure to news among users emerges even as overall usage of each site has remained steady since 2013: 17% of US adults use Twitter and 66% use Facebook. Overall, 10% of all US adults get news on Twitter, and 41% get news on Facebook.

More Twitter users follow breaking news than Facebook users

As much as 59% Twitter users use the site to keep up with a news event as it is happening, which is almost double the rate among Facebook news users, that is 31%.

Greater mix of topics for Twitter users

67% of Twitter news users regularly see at least six of the 11 news topics Pews asked about, compared with 57% of Facebook news users. Four of the individual topics are seen at higher rates among Twitter news users than Facebook news users. These are national government and politics (72% versus 61% for Twitter and Facebook, respectively), international affairs (63% versus 51%), business (55% versus 42%) and sports (70% versus 55%). News users of both sites are roughly on par with each other for the remaining seven topics.

More Facebook users comment on political content

About 32% of Facebook users post about politics and government, compared with 25% of Twitter users. (These figures refer to all users, not just news users). Additionally, about 28% Facebook users comment on posts about government and politics and 43% “like” posts. In comparison, on Twitter only 13% of users reply to such tweets and 17% “favorite” them. However, Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations, reporters or commentators (by following, friending or liking a page) than Facebook users (46% on Twitter, 28% on Facebook).

More users across demographic groups

Use of Twitter for news grew between 2013 and 2015 among users under 35 (from 55% to 67%) and those 35 and older (47% to 59%). On Facebook, news use grew among both males (44% to 61%) and females (49% to 65%), as well as households with incomes less than $75,000 per year (47% to 63%) and those making $75,000 or more (46% to 63%). This data also reveal that news exposure is relatively equal within all demographic groups, with the exception of age. Though news usage among those under 35 increased at roughly the same rate as among those aged 35 and older, on Facebook, younger users are more likely to see news than older users.

©2015 the Mint (New Delhi). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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