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January 2014

Facebook Exposes People to News

who might no otherwise get it

By NWREporter

January 2014

Three in 10 American adults (about 30 percent) get news from Facebook, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. Of these respondents, most say they aren't going to the social media hub seeking news, but instead find it "incidentally" while on the site for other reasons.

For breaking news, Facebook has yet to become the "go to" platform:  only 28 percent of Facebook news consumers say they use Facebook for breaking news. (Twitter still dominates this space.)

The vast majority of Facebook users (78 percent) say they get news while on the site for other reasons. Only 4 percent of those polled cite Facebook as the most important way they get news, but for those who tend to follow news less often overall, Facebook is a more important news source.

Researchers also found a correlation between the time spent on Facebook and the likelihood of getting news there. Two-thirds (67 percent) of those who use Facebook for at least an hour a day get news there, compared with only 41 percent of those who spend less than an hour a day on the site.

As a group, younger adults (those ages 18-to-29) are less engaged than their elders with news on other platforms, yet they are as engaged, if not more so, with news on Facebook. Pew researchers reported this segment accounts for about 34 percent of Facebook news consumers.

Among other key findings in this report:

  • Facebook news consumers still access other platforms for news at roughly the same degree as the population overall.
  • News consumption on Facebook does not replace other activities. Those who consume news on Facebook are more active on the site than other users by nearly every measure.
  • Roughly half, 49%, of Facebook news consumers report regularly getting news on six or more different topics. The most popular topic is entertainment news, followed by community news, and sports, National politics and government rank fourth.
  • Liking or commenting on news stories occurs almost as frequently as clicking on links, though back and forth discussions are less common.  About two-thirds (64%) of Facebook news consumers at least sometimes click on news links (16% do so often), while 43% post or share links themselves at least sometimes.
  • News outlets rank low in the reasons Facebook news consumers click on news links. The biggest single reason people cite for clicking on links to news stories is interest in the topic; 70% name this as a major reason to click on news links; that the link came from a news organization they preferred is cited by just 20% as a major reason for clicking - outpacing only that the story had a lot of "likes" (13%).
  • Facebook news consumers who "like" or follow news organizations or journalists show high levels of news engagement on the site. About a third, 34%, of Facebook news consumers have news organizations or individual journalists in their feeds. Those who do are more likely to see the site as an important way to get news than those who do not have news organizations or journalists in their feed (54% versus 38%).
  • As with U.S. adults overall, only a minority of Facebook news consumers say they prefer news that shares their point of view. When asked about things that bother them on Facebook, twice as many Facebook news consumers are bothered when people post political statements (whether related to the news or not) than when people post opinions about something in the news (32% versus 14%).
  • Among U.S. adults, the desktop/laptop computer is still the primary way most adults access Facebook. Fully 59% of all adult Facebook users and 53% of Facebook news consumers mostly access the site through a desktop or laptop computer rather than a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.

While the primarily mobile users tend to check in more frequently, desktop users clock more total time, according to survey results.

Pew Research conducted the survey collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and said it is the first analysis in a series of studies to looks at the connections between social media and news consumption.

For purposes of the survey Pew researchers defined news consumers as those who answered they "ever get news or news headlines on Facebook." News is defined as "information about events and issues that involve more than just your friends or family."