During the past year, the number of Americans getting at least a portion of their news from social media sites has increased from 62 percent in 2016 to 67 percent in 2017.
The findings are part of a survey conducted via phone by the Pew Research Center, polling 4,971 Americans to determine which social media sites they most often turn to for news content.
Because of its overall reach, Facebook is the most popular social platform for US adults who get news from a social media site. With 66 percent of Americans using Facebook, Pew Research Center says 45 percent of US adults get at least some of their news from the site.
The survey found that of the 45 percent turning to Facebook for news content, half claim it is the only social platform they are using for news.
Following Facebook, the second leading social media site for news was YouTube, with 18 percent of Americans getting their news from Google’s video platform.
Because of its smaller user base, Twitter ranked third in terms of social sites where Americans are getting news. With 15 percent of Americans on Twitter, the report found 11 percent are getting news from the social platform.
“In 2017, both the user base and the share getting news on YouTube grew. The result: 18 percent of all Americans now get news on YouTube,” says Pew Research Center. “Twitter has the reverse structure from YouTube: While a large share of its users get news on the site (74 percent say they do), its audience is significantly smaller overall.”
Social media sites as pathways to news: US adults using social platforms vs. those getting news from each site:
Pew Research Center revealed 26 percent of the survey participants said they get news from two or more social media sites — up from 18 percent in 2016. The report found social platforms with a smaller user base were most likely to have users getting news from multiple social sites.
“In general sites with a smaller number of users also tend to have the most overlap with other social media sites for news,” says the Pew Research Center. The report found that half of the people getting news on LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp are also getting news from three or more other social media sites.
Reddit was an exception to this rule: “Only four percent of US adults get news from this site, and of these users, just 38 percent use three or more social media sites for news.”
Pew Research Center parsed its survey findings to determine overlap between the social platforms being used for news. Unsurprisingly, audience overlap was most common among the smaller sites with users who also visit Facebook and YouTube for news.
Audience overlap of users getting news from multiple social platforms:
The Pew Research Center attributes the 62 percent to 67 percent growth in the number of people turning to social media to three specific demographics: people older than 50 years of age; non-whites; and those without bachelor degrees.
“For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55 percent) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites,” reported The Pew Research Center, “That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45 percent who said so in 2016.”
There was also a 10 percentage-point increase for non-whites who get news from social platforms, going from 64 percent in 2016 to 74 percent in 2017. The number of Americans without a bachelor’s degree who get news from social sites also increased, from 60 percent last year to 69 percent this year.
“While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and non-white,” claims the report.
The Pew Research Center also noted that getting news from social media platforms did not necessarily mean other more traditional news outlets were being ignored.
“Twitter news users, for example, are more likely to also often get news via news websites and apps than Facebook or YouTube news users,” says the Pew Center in the report. “Facebook news users are more likely to often get news from local TV than those on YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat.”
Another distinction should be made about the distribution of news content via social platforms versus the news content itself. It’s worth mentioning that while people are getting more of their news from social platforms, the news headlines are still originating from news websites. Whether or not that content translates into a click through to the original news site — or how many remain within the social media platform’s frame, such as a Facebook Instant Article — is another metric entirely.