Social media is not just for fun and communication, it's also the leading news source for many online users, a new study has found.

Mobile use has increased tremendously in the last few years and those who surf the web on their smartphones often get their news from social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, rather than the TV.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RSIJ) published a study showing that slightly more than half (51 percent) of online users are now getting their news from social media at least once a week, which poses a significant challenge for quality news publishers.

The trend is particularly apparent in youngsters, as 28 percent of the people aged 18 to 24 who participated in the survey said their main news source was social media, whereas only 24 percent cited TV. This marks the first time social media has overtaken TV as a source of news.

Those 51 percent of users who get their news from social media typically don't pay for news and use an ad blocker, which has a negative impact on publishers' revenue.

While social platforms serve as a venue for free news to reach a wider audience, it also makes it more challenging for publishers to connect with readers and get recognition for their work.

"The report suggests that publishers across the world are facing unprecedented levels of disruption of business models and formats from a combination of the rise of social platforms, the move to mobile and growing consumer rejection of online advertising," notes the RSIJ.

The new report is based on a YouGov survey of more than 50,000 online news consumers in 26 countries, including the United States and UK.

Getting free news from social media can be more convenient, but oftentimes that content does not qualify as professional journalism. Among social media platforms, Facebook is playing an increasingly bigger part in distributing online news, serving as a news source for 44 percent of people. The report further notes that 19 percent use YouTube, while 10 percent use Twitter as their news source.

People in developing countries rely even more on social media to stay informed, as access to reliable and independent news is otherwise limited.

The study also reveals that more than half of the people surveyed access news on their smartphones. Sweden recorded the highest rates with 69 percent, followed by Korea with 66 percent and Switzerland with 61 percent.

In the United States and Britain, more people use smartphones rather than laptops and PCs to access news, which marks another first.

This trend is on the rise and is overthrowing traditional business models, forcing publishers to find new ways to sustain their business. According to the report, less than 10 percent of news consumers in English-speaking countries paid anything to access online news in the past year. In this context, the only sustainable business model seems to be advertising.

Where do you get your news from? Do you pay any subscription for online news? Do you find the free news distributed on social media to be satisfactory in terms of quality, relevance and reliability? Drop by our comment section below and share your thoughts.

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