A new study reveals that 30% of Americans get their news on Facebook, and suggests that the social network drives people to media sites who may not have otherwise done so. Of that 30%, more than half — 78% — said they click on news links to media sites after initially logging on for unrelated reasons, such as checking out friends’ pictures or updating their statuses. In fact, only 16% of Facebook users say that getting news is the primary reason they log on.
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However, only 22% of the 30% who get their news on Facebook think the site is a useful source for information about the world, and only 4% of those think Facebook is “the most important way” to get their news.
“People go to Facebook to share personal moments — and they discover the news almost incidentally,” Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s director of journalism research, said in a statement. “The serendipitous nature of news on Facebook may actually increase its importance as a source of news and information, especially among those who do not follow the news closely.”
The study quotes one respondent, who said he believes “Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it.”
“Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it.”
The importance of the social network also depends on how much of a news junkie the user is.
Among those who click on news links in their Facebook news feeds, just 38% of heavy news followers think the social network is “an important way to get the news,” but among those who follow news “less often,” 47% consider Facebook as an important source.
Facebook announced that it was driving 170% more traffic to media sites this year than in 2012.
This is the first of a series of studies on social media and news published by Pew in collaboration with the Knight Foundation. For this study, Pew surveyed 5,173 Americans ages 18 and older.