Pew: How People Use One or More Social Networks For News

Pew last week released the results of a new study on which social media sites Americans were getting their news from. Those numbers are not only insightful in and of themselves but also in regards to the ongoing conversation about what responsibility the companies operating those sites have to their role as news sources.

Facebook Dominates

Not only is Facebook the most widely-used social network, but half of the people who get their news on that site do so exclusively, meaning they don’t turn to any other social media site for additional information or context.

That stat needs to be used the next time Facebook is called to account for the influence it wields and who may be using it as a disinformation platform. That includes not only foreign but domestic actors. If 45% of U.S. adults use Facebook for news and half do so exclusively, that means it is the only source of news for roughly 23% of U.S. adults. The fact that the company does not seem to take that role seriously is breathtaking.

Messaging App Users Stay In That Lane

In general, the number of people who get news from messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp are small – 5 and 2% respectively – but if they do they tend to stay in that category. So WhatsApp users also turn to Snapchat for news, as well as Instagram.

Twitter and YouTube Numbers Are Surprising

It was surprising to see that only 11% of respondents said they turn to Twitter for news, especially given its role in the conversation around breaking news events. That came into stark relief a few years ago when Twitter was filled with updates of the protests and other events in Ferguson, MO while Facebook dominated by the Ice Bucket Challenge. That contrast lead some to refer to Facebook’s as the “Ice Bucket Feed.”

Just as unexpected is the appearance of YouTube as the second most used site for news, with 18% of people turning there, 21% exclusively. Just last year there was a report that YouTube had fallen out of favor with media companies who were being lured by pitches from Facebook, Snapchat and others that focused on how they reach vital demographics and encourage viral sharing. YouTube apparently wants to lean into this role as just a few months ago it introduced a “Breaking News” section on the desktop and mobile app front pages.

[pilatevoice] What Is News? [/pilatevoice]

What’s left unaddressed in the Pew report is what the definition of “news” being used is. While all these platforms certainly deal in what might be called “hard” news, they also feature more than a little “softer” news, as well as content that can only be termed news through a significant stretching of definitions. Are people using these sites to stay in tune with politics and government?

A 2013 Pew study found that “Entertainment” accounted for 73% of the news people saw on Facebook while “National government and politics” was just 55% and “International” just 39%. So when people are going to YouTube or anywhere else for news, what does that mean? It can’t be assumed it’s the kind of news that would make the lead on a local TV broadcast or the front page of The New York Times.

Not only that, but the study doesn’t address what sources are providing that news. As Facebook seeks to increasingly marginalize the role of the traditional news publisher – at least those who don’t either pay for promoted posts or adopt whichever native format is preferred that week – it can’t be assumed that the news people are seeing is going through any sort of vetting or editorial review to determine veracity.

That’s exactly what the hearings Facebook, Twitter and Google took part in last week in Washington, D.C. were all about. If you’re getting your news not from a source that, whatever its editorial bias might be at least ascribes to traditional journalistic principles but from YourRightDaily or whatever that is designed to inflame passions through the spread of “emotional” content that plays into prejudices, the “facts” you’re getting are very different.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Pew Shows Facebook Keeps Getting Bigger, Young Women Rule on Social

There’s a new Pew Internet study that covers just how much U.S. adults – specifically those who are regularly online – are using social networks. The research continues to reinforce some patterns with social media that have been pretty standard over the years.

pew-social-media-usage-dec-2016First, social media is primarily women. Of the five networks Pew tracked – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn – four of them are predominantly female-skewing, with LinkedIn being the only exception. Twitter is close (25% women to 24% men) but everything else has a gender gap of at least eight percentage points. Pinterest’s gap is the widest, 45% women versus 17% men, which is to be expected.

Second, 18-29-year-olds continue to rule the roost. That demographic dominates all five networks, sometimes by a little and sometimes by a lot. On LinkedIn the age groups are pretty evenly spread out, ranging from 34% of 18-29s to 20% of those over 65. The biggest disparity is on Instagram, where 59% of 18-29-year-olds are active on the networks but just 18% of those 50-64 and a minuscule 8% of those 65 or older.

What’s interesting is that while Twitter is the least-used network (24% of internet users, 21% of U.S. adults) of the five, it’s not that far from other networks that have far more buzz and positive press. While it’s far outside of Facebook’s usage numbers, so is everything else. It’s within 10 percentage points of Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn and none of those networks are the subject of thrice-yearly speculation over whether or not they’ll be shutting down within six months. More than that, Twitter continues to be where the conversation happens and is an invaluable tool (for good or ill) for the press, who use it to monitor what elected officials and other important people are saying because those people themselves are using it.

The report also has interesting stats looking at how users of each network also use the others on the list, as well as the percentage of people who are using the apps daily. And it dives a bit into messaging app usage demographics.

Overall, though, the study reinforces the notion that social media is a tool that’s being used predominantly by young women. That’s not surprising based on historical trends but it is surprising given the level of harassment faced by women in general on these networks. While some, including Twitter and Instagram, have recently begun introducing better tools to take on that abusive behavior, the stigma that social media provides a platform for hateful, racist and sexist commentary that’s often lobbed directly at an individual will be hard to shake.

Every brand program will have a different demographic audience. I’ve seen Facebook pages that had audiences that were 75% male and some that were 80% female. But by default, the audience is made up of young women. If you’re not accounting for that to at least some extent you’re ignoring trends and putting your program at a disadvantage.

Quick Takes 7/11/16: Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and More

I’m going to go back to doing a regular series here on recent social media, content marketing and other news that’s caught my eye. This first edition is a bit heavy because I started saving stories last week when I was focusing on other, non-blog stuff, and future posts won’t be quite this robust.


Snapchat’s Teen Fans Wince as App Catches On With Their Folks (Wall Street Journal, 7/4/16)

Twitter is Testing 2 New Customer Service Features That Brands Will Love (The Next Web, 7/5/16)

Generation Listen aims to bring millennials into the NPR family (Current, 7/6/16)

Snapchat Saves Your Snaps Because Hey, Memories Can Be Nice (Wired, 7/6/16)

Get Ready For More Podcasts on YouTube… A Lot More, Thanks to Libsyn (MediaShift, 7/6/16)

Facebook is *really* boosting live video (Poynter, 7/6/16)

Twitter Live is a New Thing From Twitter That Could Actually Be Useful (Quartz, 7/6/16)

A sound experiment: How video clips from our podcasts (huh? yes, really) help us find new listeners (The Economist, 7/6/16)

How Do Internet Users Feel About Buy Buttons? (eMarketer, 7/7/16)

Audible’s answer to the podcasting world is officially out of beta, and it’s looking as ambitious as ever (Nieman Lab, 7/7/16)

The Modern News Consumer (Pew Research Center, 7/7/16)

Facebook Makes Subjective Decisions on Keeping Violent Live Streams Up (Buzzfeed, 7/8/16)

Why Advertisers Are Forking Over Big Bucks for Custom Snapchat Lenses (Adweek, 7/10/16)

New Social Network Data from Pew

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.05.42 PM

New from me on PNConnect:

It’s all about knowing the audience. While this particular report doesn’t break out how these demographic changes have impacted the user base of specific networks and apps there’s still some inferences that can be drawn if you combine it with other numbers. For many people social networks *are* the internet, so it’s important to see how many people are using those networks.

Source: Pew Reports on Social Media Usage Changes Over Last Decade « PNConnect | Digital Marketing Services from Porter Novelli

Pew’s Report on Millennials and Political News

(Note: This post first appeared on the Voce blog)

pew millennials politicsWhat Is It: The Pew Research Center is out with a new study showing 61% of Millennials – broadly defined as anyone born after 1980 – get political news primarily from Facebook, almost exactly the opposite proportion of those in the Baby Boom generation, for whom local TV news still dominates.

What Does This Mean: There are all sorts of interesting data finds in the study that are well worth reading, particularly those that deal with how trusting members of the various demographic groups are of media. But the question that should cause the most discussion isn’t raised until the end and it’s roughly this: What does it mean that so many people are getting their news through social media?

The answer is incredibly complex and requires consideration of a multitude of factors, but at the core it comes down to how some social networks, particularly Facebook, are filtering the user experience in ways that sometimes can’t be controlled and are invisible to the audience, who often aren’t even aware there are filters being applied which a vast swath of people aren’t.

Facebook recently released a study where they essentially washed their hands of responsibility and said people themselves for whatever diversity they were or weren’t seeing in their Newsfeeds. While that may be true (to an extent…Facebook is still ultimately the one that governs the algorithm that creates the Newsfeed), the results of getting your news from a system that’s almost uniquely designed to reinforce your own point of view and limit outside opinions is felt well outside of Facebook and informs people’s behavior on a local, state and federal level.

Facebook plays a unique role in today’s information ecosystem, as this new study shows starkly. But the impact of that role is, I’d wager, only beginning to be felt.

Pew’s Study on Teens, Tech and Social Media: Five Things To Know

(Post originally published on the PNConnect Blog)

Pew has released a massive new study examining the technology and social media habits of teens in the United States. As usual there’s a plethora of interesting data in the study but for companies looking to incorporate this information into their social media marketing plans here are the big takeaways:

  1. PI_2015-04-09_teensandtech_01These teens are almost always online. More than half say they go online several times a day. And most of that is happening on mobile devices, with 91% of teens saying they use those devices to go online at least some of the time. Tellingly, those without mobile access to the internet go online less frequently. This is fast on its way to becoming the default on-ramp to the web.
  2. They’re mostly on Facebook but they aren’t loyal to any one site. 71% of teens say they use more than one social network. Interestingly, Google+ is used by the same percentage of those who DO only use one network as Instagram, 13% in both cases. So while Facebook continues to dominate – it’s used most by 41% and exclusively by 66% – it would be a mistake to pick a single channel to focus marketing efforts aimed at this demographic on.
  3. Income dramatically influences what networks are used. With the exception of Facebook, usage of other networks (Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter) increases as household income increases. Facebook is the only one with an inverse relationship with income, with usage decreasing as incomes rise. Not only does overall usage change with income levels but frequency of usage does as well.
  4. Gender and age play pretty big roles as well. As the report states, girls are more drawn to visually-oriented networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Meanwhile, Instagram is the most-visited platform among those 13-14.
  5. The report points out that a lot – 33% – of teens in the survey use a messaging app like Kik, WhatsApp and others. Not only does this mark a substantive change in behavior from social media (these apps aren’t build around the stream or feed like Twitter, Facebook and so on) but it means they’re more interested in communicating with each other as opposed to broadcasting their updates to a wide – and sometimes unwelcome – audience. And these apps are more likely, almost twice as much so, to be used by Hispanic and African-American teens as white teens.

You can read the entire report, which breaks down usage of each of these and other networks in detail, here.

Pew looks at social media news reading

Pew has a new report out on the state of the news media in 2014. There’s a ton of good data in there on staff sizes, revenue models and everything else. But what stuck out at me was the information on how people were using social networks to get their news.

Facebook in particular showed up as a way some 30% of the audience get their news, though additional data shows that’s not actually on purpose – people are seeing news and sharing it while they’re on Facebook for other, presumably personal, reasons. And the study reinforced an earlier story about how visitors who come in via Facebook have much lower engagement rates on-site than those who visit directly.

Other stats show that half of Twitter users discover news on the site, though it’s likely much of that is “I was on Twitter anyway” type of discovery much like Facebook. Other studies have shown, though, that in breaking news situations people are more likely to turn to Twitter for updates than they are Facebook.