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News spreads on US social media

News, 30 May 2016

NEW YORK: Fully 62% of US adults now view news content on social media services, a report from the Pew Research Center has revealed.

The study, conducted in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was based on a poll of 4,654 consumers – and found that the number of people getting news from such platforms had risen from 49% in 2012.

Some 18% of respondents "often" viewed news content on these properties, with 26% "sometimes" doing so and another 18% "hardly ever" accessing such material. A further 38% "never" engaged in this activity.

Breaking out the results by platform, a 70% share of Reddit users were exposed to news content, versus 66% for Facebook and 59% when discussing Twitter. Totals fell to 31% among Tumblr's audience, and 23% on Instagram.

Looking more broadly, a 64% share of people accessed news on a single social site. Another 26% did so on two sites, with 10% doing so on at least three.

The analysis also showed what share of the general population is exposed to news output on social media – an area where Facebook dominated.

With 67% of American adults using its service, and two-thirds of this group viewing news content, that means 44% of the entire population is exposed to news content via Facebook's pages.

YouTube reaches 48% of US consumers, but only 21% of this cohort watches news content on the platform – equating to 10% of US adults overall.

Reddit led the charts when it came to the proportion of "news users" who actively seek out this kind of content on its pages, posting 55% on this metric. That score came in at 54% for Twitter and 51% on LinkedIn.

By contrast, just 37% of Instagram "news users" come across this content "because they're looking for it", Pew said. This number stood at 38% for Facebook and 41% for YouTube.

In terms of demographics, the report indicated that there are meaningful variations in the news audience depending on the specific platform concerned.

"Instagram news consumers stand out from other groups as more likely to be non-white, young and, for all but Facebook, female," the study said.

"LinkedIn news consumers are more likely to have a college degree than news users of the other four platforms; Twitter news users are the second most likely."

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff