Social Media Helps Spread News But Doesn't Drive It; Pew Research Finds

Using social media to broadcast articles is a vital part of any online strategy for media outlets. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are vital in communicating stories and spreading them, but new research suggests that while it's important, it not (yet) the main source of news that the hype has led us to believe.

The 2012 State of the News Media report, compiled by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence In Journalism, found that while people did use Facebook and Twitter to find news, only a small percentage of those surveyed (9 per cent) said that they did so. The majority of users would either go directly to a news website or app (36 per cent), use a key word search (32 per cent) or go to a news organising website or app (29 per cent).

Also, while the percentage of those who got at least some news from either Twitter or Facebook rose to 52 per cent, this still trails other methods of obtaining news such as going directly to news websites (92 per cent) and search (85 per cent).

With regards to Twitter and Facebook as a source for news, the report found that the rise of social media recommendations isn't happening at the expense of other news sites. Instead social media complements news consumption with 71 per cent of those who ever follow news links on Facebook also get news somewhat or very often by directly accessing a news outlet's website or app, while 76 per cent of Twitter news followers do the same.

However, when asked about how each site is used to find news, the responses were different. For Facebook, news consumption is done through family and friends which account for 70 per cent of all social media links on the site.

News and non-news organisations only account for 23 per cent of all links together. For Twitter, the balance between the two groups is much more even with friends and family still being the main source of links (36 per cent), but news organisations and journalists account for 27 per cent of the overall total.

This obviously reflects how different the two mediums are. While Facebook has pushed forward its subscribe feature, it's only been growing in popularity in recent times with many people still viewing it as a personal social media site. Twitter, on the other hand, is more about the spread of information and the platform is more suited towards news reporting, presenting information in bite size chunks.

The report findings are based on aggregated data from three telephone surveys conducted in January 2012 (Jan 12-15, Jan 19-22 and Jan 26-29) in the U.S.. Over 3,016 adults took part in the survey, which was conducted by Princeton Data Source. Those who would like to read the report in full can access it here.