Facebook, Twitter grow as news sources

Washington: Social media sites Facebook and Twitter are growing in influence, with more and more users using them as a source of news, a new survey has found.

Facebook page of the New York Times
Facebook page of the New York Times
The study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S and James L Knight Foundation, found that 63 per cent of Twitter users and 63 per cent of Facebook users said that each platform serves as a source for news about ongoing events and issues.

That share has increased substantially from 2013, when about half of users (52 per cent of Twitter users, 47 per cent of Facebook users) said they got news from the social media.

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.

The proportion of users who said they follow breaking news on Twitter, for example, is nearly twice as high as those who said they do so on Facebook (59 per cent vs 31 per cent) – lending support, perhaps, to the view that Twitter’s great strength is providing as-it-happens coverage and commentary on live events, the researchers said.

Twitter news users were more likely than Facebook users to report seeing news about four out of the 11 topics covered in the survey – national government and politics (72 per cent vs 61 per cent), international affairs (63 per cent vs 51 per cent), business (55 per cent vs 42 per cent) and sports (70 per cent vs 55 per cent).

Twitter and Facebook news users were roughly comparable for other topics – people and events in your community, local weather and traffic, entertainment, crime, local government, science and technology, and health and medicine.

On Facebook, women were more likely to see posts about health, entertainment and people and events in their community, while posts about weather, entertainment, crime, and health were more commonly seen by women on Twitter.

The study found that the rise in the share of users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.

Use of Twitter for news, for example, grew among both users under 35 (55 per cent to 67 per cent) and those ages 35 and older (47 per cent to 59 per cent).

On Facebook, news use grew among both men (44 per cent to 61 per cent) and women (49 per cent to 65 per cent).

Though news usage among those under 35 increased at the same rate as among those ages 35 and older, on Facebook, younger users are more likely to see news than older users.

When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organisations, the study found.

The main source of data for the study was a survey fielded over two weekends in March 2015, among a sample of 2,035 adults 18 years of age or older.

Inputs with PTI