Research Reveals Fewer People Rely on Facebook for News

Research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals that younger people have changed their social media habits on consuming news. For Reuters, YouGov surveyed 74,000 people in 37 markets about their social media habits, and found that, among younger people, use of Facebook for news is down 9 percent from last year. Instead, this group is more likely to use Facebook’s WhatsApp to discuss current events in a more private forum. The survey took place before Facebook changed its News Feed filters in January.

Reuters reports that, “the research lays bare the volatility of consumer tastes as the news industry tries to grapple with the impact of the Internet and smartphones that have transformed both the way people consume news and the way media companies make money.”

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Reuters Institute research associate Nic Newman noted that, “the use of social media for news has started to fall in a number of key markets after years of continuous growth.” “We continue to see a rise in the use of messaging apps for news as consumers look for more private (and less confrontational) spaces to communicate,” he added.

The Institute, which is funded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, also found that although many users discover news via Facebook and Twitter, their discussions about it take place on messaging apps, “such as WhatsApp, often because people feel less vulnerable discussing events on such apps.” Facebook bought WhatsApp, which was founded in 2009, for $19 billion in cash and stock in 2014.

In Latin America and Asia, WhatsApp and Facebook-owned Instagram are popular, and, in Europe and the U.S., Snapchat has gained followers.

The study found that, “some respondents still found news on Facebook but then posted items on a WhatsApp group for discussion with a closer set of friends.” But, “fewer than half of people surveyed across the world said they trusted the media most of the time,” whereas a mere 34 percent in the U.S. — down 4 percent — said “they trusted most news, most of the time.”

Most trusted in the U.S. is local TV news and The Wall Street Journal; in the U.K., it is BBC News and ITV News. The political right in the U.S. trust Fox News and Breitbart, and those on the left trust CNN more. The survey also found that, “news brands with a broadcasting background and a long heritage tended to be trusted most, with popular newspapers and digital-born brands trusted less.” Public broadcasters also “scored well.”

“The verdict is clear: people find that some news is worth paying for, but much of it is not,” said Reuters Institute director of research Rasmus Kleis. “The challenge for publishers now is to ensure that the journalism they produce is truly distinct, relevant and valuable, and then effectively promoting it to convince people to donate or subscribe.”