While social networks such as Facebook and Twitter prefer to describe themselves as content distribution platforms rather than content publishing platforms, denying any involvement in the editorial reshaping of what users see (despite their editorial ability to remove content from their sites), a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that Facebook and Twitter users across multiple demographics in the United States are increasingly turning to the two services to access external news.
“The share of Americans for whom Twitter and Facebook serve as a source of news is continuing to rise,” notes the Pew report. “This rise comes primarily from more current users encountering news there rather than large increases in the user base overall.”
According to TechCrunch, “The researchers report substantial growth in the proportion of adult Web users saying each platform serves as a source for news about ‘events and issues outside of friends and family’ — with 63 percent of Facebook users and the same proportion of Twitter users now saying that, up from a majority (52 percent) of Twitter users and 47 percent of Facebook users back in 2013.”
Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to news content about government and politics, whereas Twitter users are more inclined to follow news organizations and reporters. Research also reveals that younger consumers tend to receive their news via Facebook, and users seeking to follow live events are more likely to turn to Twitter.
Social media’s evolving role in sourcing and distributing news raises questions about how digital platforms may influence public opinion. Facebook recently launched Facebook Instant Articles for hosting publishers’ content, which intends to reduce article loading times to keep users within the platform for longer periods of time.
“As social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features,” said Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s director of journalism. “These different ways of connecting with news have implications for how Americans learn about the world and their communities, and for how long they take part in the democratic process.”