Accuracy in Media

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A new study by the Pew Research Center reveals that Americans are turning increasingly to Facebook and Twitter as sources for news.

The study found that 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users now rely on these social media platforms as sources for their news consumption. This is an increase from 2013 when about half of all users (52% for Twitter, 47% for Facebook) used the social media platforms for news.

After social media, local TV, cable and network news were ranked almost equally. But MSNBC, which has been struggling for more than two years, finished near the bottom as a news source in all age groups surveyed. That doesn’t bode well for their future.

Some of the other key findings in the report, as listed by Pew:

  • Twitter news users are more likely than their counterparts on Facebook to report seeing news about four out of 11 topics: national government and politics (72% vs. 61%), international affairs (63% vs. 51%), business (55% vs. 42%) and sports (70% vs. 55%). Twitter and Facebook news users are roughly comparable for the remaining seven topics covered: people and events in your community, local weather and traffic, entertainment, crime, local government, science and technology, and health and medicine. On Facebook, women are more likely to regularly see posts about health, entertainment and people and events in their community, while posts about weather, entertainment, crime, and health are more commonly seen by women on Twitter – a finding that is in line with our past research.
  • The rise in the share of social media 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% to 67%) and those ages 35 and older (47% to 59%). And on Facebook, news use grew among both men (44% to 61%) and women (49% to 65%). These data also reveal that news exposure is relatively equal within all demographic groups, with the exception of age. Though news usage among those under 35 increased at roughly 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 organizations. About one-third of Facebook users (32%) say they post about government and politics on Facebook, and 28% comment on these types of posts. That compares to a quarter of Twitter users (25%) who tweet about this news topic and 13% who reply to tweets on this topic posted by others. But following news outlets directly is more common on Twitter.About half (46%) of Twitter users follow news organizations, reporters or commentators, compared with about three-in-ten (28%) of Facebook users.

The growth in Facebook and Twitter as news sources—especially among millennials—isn’t all that surprising given the increasing use of smartphones and tablets. Together they make news more accessible, and that is only likely to increase as these platforms grow and news organizations increase their online/mobile content, making it easier to read and share news with friends and family.

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