CHICAGO: Social media is replacing search as the dominant method for content discovery, particularly among Millennials, a new study has shown.

A survey of 1,500 online adults between the ages of 18 and 55, carried out by Forrester Consulting for BuzzFeed and Mediavest | Spark, found that social media has come to dominate the news and information consumption landscape.

Not only did respondents identify social media as their preferred source for reading, viewing or listening to the topics they most care about, they also passively discovered news and information as a result of seeing it shared by friends in their social media feed.

Young Millennials (aged 18 to 24) were significantly more likely to discover, consume and share content through social media than older groups.

In particular, they were twice as likely to get news from social media as were 35-55 year olds; TV news programs are preferred by fewer than one in ten Millennials.

Young Millennials were also more likely to "like" or share things with their friends at least daily than older age groups, a behaviour that extended to publishers' posts.

The study reported that a typical young Millennial follows an average of 121 publishers across social media networks, or almost three times as many as 35-55 year olds follow. Further, 57% will follow their favourite publishers across platforms.

Unsurprisingly, Millennials preferred mobile to desktop content and spent 45% more time consuming news on their smartphones compared with 35-55 year-olds; they were also 15% more likely to value news delivered in a format optimised for their mobile device.

The reliance on social media for news discovery has clear implications for brands. "Providing Millennials with engaging content as social currency in a mobile-first world is a powerful way to connect with these consumers," said Kate Sirkin, Global Head of Audience Measurement, Publicis Media.

That content, added Lindsey Kaye, Research Manager at BuzzFeed, needs to "drive connections with the individual, their inner-circle and the sub-cultures where they play".

Data sourced from Starcom Mediavest; additional content by Warc staff