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Pew Research Center findings on Social News Consumption

News consumption is becoming a community activity. It is becoming social. We have seen this happen and know that it will gradually change the way we try to understand our world.

A recent research by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation explored the characteristics of news consumers and the size of their population across 11 social networking sites. The research was conducted in the United States.

The research – “News Use Across Social Media Platforms” – found that the primary social networking sites where users also consume news are Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, in that order. But when looked at in terms of the percentage of the total U.S. population , Facebook seems to be dominant, surprisingly followed by You Tube. The report states:
“Facebook is by far the largest social networking site among U.S. adults, and with half of its users getting news there, is also the largest among U.S. adults when it comes to getting news. As discussed in an earlier report, roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the site, and half of those users get news there—amounting to 30% of the general population. YouTube has the next greatest reach in terms of general usage, at 51% of U.S. adults. Thus, even though only a fifth of its users get news there, that amounts to 10% of the adult population, which puts it on par with Twitter.”

The report also finds out the access to traditional news sources is still there and states that,
“YouTube, LinkedIn and Google Plus news consumers are more likely than Facebook and Twitter news consumers to watch cable news. Twitter news consumers are among the least likely to turn to local and cable TV.”

The demographic analysis reveals that news consumers on Twitter are more likely to be younger than other social networking sites, LinkedIn news consumers tend to be college educated and higher earners while Facebook news consumers are more likely to be female.

It would have been more interesting to also understand how news selection happen in social networking communities keeping in mind aspects of ‘virality’, conversations and engagement. News on social networking sites may often be consumed on the basis of prominence it may enjoy in a certain community. In the process, sometimes the not so significant news may become important with community action – a trend that should not be encouraged. It also has the potential to promote news that traditional outlets might choose to ignore or play down – a trend that can become empowering. For practicing communicators, social news consumption seems to be the next minefield to navigate!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur


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