More look to social media for news

By Adam Earnheardt

A growing number of Americans are relying on social media to get their news.

In a recent survey from Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of Americans are reading news on social media, and about 20 percent report going on social media “often” to get news.

These numbers reflect a small increase in people turning to social media since early 2016, during the height of the presidential primaries.

“This growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and nonwhite,” said Pew report authors, Elisa Shearer and Jeffrey Gottfried.

What’s remarkable is that for the first time in Pew’s research, more than half (55 percent) of Americans age 50 or older reported getting their news on social media. According to the report, that’s “10 percentage points higher than the 45 percent who said so in 2016.”

Social media users under 50 were more likely than older Americans to get their news online. That number hovered around 78 percent, unchanged from 2016.

The report showed marked improvement for social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat.

“We first look at the share of each site’s users who get news there,” said Shearer and Gottfried. “Overall ... Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat had an increase.”

In 2013, at least half of Twitter users reported getting news on the microblogging platform. In 2017, with a president who frequently makes announcements on the platform, about three-quarters (74 percent) now report going to Twitter to get news. That’s up 15 percentage points from last year.

YouTube results suggested that about a third of users get news on the video-sharing platform, up from 21 percent in 2016.

News use on Snapchat increased 12 points to 29 percent in August 2017, up from 17 percent in early 2016. This is likely due to an increase in the number of news outlets with enhanced access and features available on Snapchat.

“Growth on these three sites follows investments [media] companies have made over the last year in developing their news usability,” said Shearer and Gottfried.

“Twitter, in addition to getting nearly daily attention from the president’s posts, spent the year promoting the platform’s potential for news publishers and has announced launches for multiple news streaming partnerships.”

Pew researchers noted YouTube’s expanded YouTube TV. The site added a “breaking news” summary on its landing page, and it continues to be used by other groups for sharing information with small, dispersed audiences.

“Snapchat won over a number of big news names this year for its group of Discover publishers,” said Shearer and Gottfried.

Of the remaining sites Pew asked about in its survey, social media users on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tumblr were just as likely to get news from those platforms as they were in 2016.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn. Have a column idea? Email him at

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