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Social media news role grows

News, 16 July 2015

WASHINGTON, DC: More and more Americans are turning to social media to discover what is happening in the world, but millennials are increasingly likely to regard Twitter and Facebook as their primary news sources, according to a new report.

The Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, surveyed 2,035 US adults on their use of these two social networks in regards to news (defined as "information about events and issues beyond just friends and family").

It found that almost two thirds (63%) of users of both Twitter and Facebook now got news from them, up from 2013 figures of 52% for Twitter and 47% for Facebook.

Translating that to the nation as a whole, 10% of all US adults now get news on Twitter, and 41% get news on Facebook, the latter figure reflecting Facebook's larger user base (66% of US adults use Facebook compared to the 17% who use Twitter).

Since the research was undertaken before Facebook's introduction of Instant Articles, that figure is likely to grow further in the coming months. Twitter is also planning new developments around news and events as part of its new Project Lightning feature.

People use the two sites in quite different ways, however, with Twitter news users nearly twice as likely to look to the social network for breaking news (59% v 31%).

Twitter news users also tend to see a greater mix of topics than Facebook news users. Compared to the latter they are especially interested in sports, business, international news, and national government and politics.

Pew reported that the increase in the share of users getting news on each platform cut across nearly every demographic measured – gender, race, age, education and household income.

There was, however, one noticeable shift among younger users – around half of survey respondents under 35 said that these social sites were an important or most important way they get their news.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff