One third of Americans get news through Facebook

One in three Americans gets news through Facebook, a study from the Pew Research Center released yesterday has found.

Almost 80 per cent of those who took the survey reported reading  news as they checked up on friends or shared photos.

According to the study, heavy news consumers did not describe Facebook as an important source of news.

"People go to Facebook to share personal moments - and they discover the news almost incidentally," Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew, said in a statement.

The survey forms the first part in a series of studies being conducted by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S and James L Knight Foundation to examine social media and news consumption.

According to the study, about two-thirds of all US adults used Facebook. The world's largest social media site features a display stream where people and publishers shared news.

According to only 4 per cent of Facebook news consumers, the platform was the most important way they obtained their news.

Social media is taking on an increasingly  important role as a news disseminator especially among young people.

The trend was especially strong among young people who prefered to get news through platforms like Twitter or Facebook rather than traditional forms of print or broadcast television.

The initial findings from the ongoing project seem to have little for Facebook, which is ranked behind Twitter as the place people turn to for breaking news.

According to the study, 62 per cent of Facebook users who actively followed the news did not consider Facebook as an important news source.

However, 47 per cent of Facebook users who followed the news "some of the time" did consider the social network a viable outlet and according to Mitchell, the serendipitous nature of news on Facebook might actually increase its importance as a source of news and information, especially among those who did not follow the news closely.

According to Mayur Patel, Knight Foundation vice president for strategy and assessment, the study added to the understanding of the way social media was transforming how news was shared and consumed.

He added, the implications for media organisations were significant – through the data they cold gain insights on the behaviour of the people they were trying to reach.

Some highlights of the study are:

  • Facebook news consumers still accessed other platforms for news to around the same degree as the population overall.
  • Roughly half (49 per cent) of Facebook news consumers reported regularly getting news on six or more different topics.
  • Roughly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Facebook news consumers said they at least sometimes click on news links, and 60 per cent at least sometimes liked or commented on stories.