News Use on Twitter and Facebook Is on the Rise

WASHINGTON – July 14, 2015 – Fully 63% of Facebook users and the same share of Twitter users now say each platform serves as source for news about events and issues outside of friends and family—a share that has increased substantially from 2013, when about half of users of each platform (52% of Twitter users, 47% of Facebook users) said they got news there, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook – Pew Research Center

The representative survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults finds that, although both Twitter and Facebook have the same portion of users who get news there, the platforms have significant differences in their potential news distribution strengths. Twitter is used more than Facebook for breaking news; nearly six-in-ten Twitter news users (59%), for example, say they follow breaking news on Twitter to keep up with a news event as it is happening, almost double the31% of Facebook users (who say they do so on Facebook.

“As social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features. These different ways of connecting with news have implications for how Americans learn about the world and their communities, and for how they take part in the democratic process,” said Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s Director of Journalism Research.  

The data show that this increase since 2013 in the share of Twitter and Facebook users getting news from these sites cuts across nearly all demographic groups measured. The use of Twitter as a news source, for example, grew among both users under 35 (55% to 67%) and those 35 and older (47% to 59%); younger users are however still more likely to get news on Facebook. On Facebook, news use grew among both men (44% to 61%) and women (49% to 65%).

“The sizeable increase in news consumption on Twitter and Facebook since 2013 corresponds with new initiatives and features both platforms have introduced to promote access and engagement with media content,” said Jon Sotsky, Knight Foundation director for strategy and assessment. “Exploring how news consumption through social media can shape how people interact with, respond and react to the news will be critical for news providers and others interested in advancing the real-world impact of journalism.”

The analysis suggests that different habits and topics are more suited to different platforms. For instance, following news outlets directly is more common on Twitter, with 46% of Twitter users following news organizations, reporters, or commentators compared with 28% of Facebook users. When it comes to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely than Twitter users to post and respond to content. About a third (32%) of Facebook users say they post about government and politics on Facebook and 28% comment on these types of posts. In comparison, 25% of Twitter users tweet about this news topic and 13% reply to tweets on this topic posted by others.

Twitter and Facebook users report seeing news about seven of eleven topics asked about in the survey at roughly the same rates:  people and events in your community, local weather and traffic, entertainment, crime, local government, science and technology, and health and medicine. Four remaining topics were seen at higher rates on Twitter: national government and politics (72% vs. 61%), international affairs (63% vs. 51%), business (55% vs. 42%) and sports (70% vs. 55%). On Facebook, women are more likely to regularly see posts about health, entertainment, and people and events in your community, while posts about weather, entertainment, crime, and health are more commonly seen by women on Twitter.

The data in this report are based on a survey of 2,035 U.S. adults, including 331 Twitter users and 1,315 Facebook users. The survey was conducted over two weekends: March 13-15, 2015 (N=1,018) and March 20-22, 2015 (N=1,017). This is the latest report in an ongoing series examining the role of news on social media.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dana Page at 202.419.4372 or [email protected].

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the project from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.