More and more Americans are turning to Facebook and Twitter as a source of news about current events, even as they do not regard the social networks as important news sources.
A new study conducted by the Pew Research Foundation shows 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users are increasingly getting their news for "events and issues outside of family and friends" from both platforms, even as 60 percent of users of both websites say they do not regard them as an important way to get the news. The number is a good increase from the 47 percent of Facebook users and 52 percent of Twitter users who told Pew that they get their news from the websites in 2013.
Overall, a huge portion of users who get their news from Facebook and Twitter are composed of millennials, with Pew saying that use of social media as a news source rose from 55 percent to 67 percent within this age range. It is not just the young ones, though, as Pew also reported an increase from 44 percent to 61 percent in users aged 35 and above.
Not surprisingly, given Twitter's focus on real-time events, more Twitter users use the microblogging platform to get the scoop on breaking news and live events. Twitter users are also more likely to get news about national government and politics, international affairs, business and sports, while other topics are comparable on both platforms. It is also more common for people to follow news outlets directly than on Facebook, while more Facebook users, some 32 percent, post and comment about government and politics than the 25 percent who do on Twitter.
The report comes as a piece of good news for Facebook and Twitter, which are both trying to establish themselves as legitimate content platforms, not content publishers, on which news stories are published by third-party providers.
Facebook lately launched Instant Articles, which publishes news stories in people's News Feeds as a way to keep them stay longer on the site, while Twitter has livestreaming app Periscope and the upcoming Project Lightning to offer human-curated live event feeds. But as social media grows as a preferred news source, the influence of websites such as Facebook and Twitter grows.
"As social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features," says Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew Research Center. "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."
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