Journalism

New Facebook Applications to Engage Youth in News

Knight Foundation Grant to Support Research Highlighting Social Networking’s Impact on Teens and Young Adults

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL – University of Minnesota researcher Christine Greenhow and Seattle-based news aggregator NewsCloud will test new ways to engage youth in news and information by launching two social media publications on the popular social networking site Facebook. The project is being made possible by a $249,529 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

University researchers, led by Greenhow, will investigate how online social network sites like Facebook can engage youth in world events, build community and generate real world impact. Greenhow’s previous work investigated the learning benefits of online social networking sites (MySpace , Facebook) for teenagers.

“Understanding how youth not only consume online information but manipulate, produce and talk through it for social and educational purposes will move us closer to understanding how to design and develop successful media-rich environments,” Greenhow said. 

The study, which will be published next year, will seek to discover which strategies work best to engage 16 to 25 year-olds in current events and how the Internet can be used to deliver educational materials in innovative and effective ways.

Facebook was chosen because it has 120 million active members and is the most-trafficked social media site in the world. More than 85 percent of four-year U.S. university students use Facebook, making it an ideal space in which to gather this data.

The first Facebook publication, which will be produced in partnership with online environmental magazine Grist.org, is focused on climate change. The second publication will provide news sharing and community features for Minnesota students.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased from 25 to 34 percent since 1998.

“It’s important that we find new ways to reverse these trends by engaging young people where they increasingly spend time – online in social networks,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director.

“We’re excited to apply our technology to support Dr. Greenhow’s research,” said NewsCloud founder Jeff Reifman. “We hope these publications serve as a model for using Facebook to engage younger readers in important current events.”

About NewsCloud

Launched in 2005, NewsCloud is a community-driven news aggregator and an open source solutions provider for social media. At the end of the project, NewsCloud will release the source code to these Facebook applications via open source license. Visit www.newscloud.com/research for more information.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation invests in journalism excellence worldwide and in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.