29 Comments

Summary:

According to statistics from Hitwise, an increasing number of visits to news and media web sites are coming from Facebook, which has been promoting itself as a place where users can share news links. Traffic from Facebook has more than doubled in the past year.

Facebook staffer Malorie Lucich wrote a post on the site’s blog recently in which she talked about using the social network to keep up with the news in two different ways — both by picking up news from the friends you follow through their news feeds and status updates, but also by becoming a fan of pages from news outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN and so on. As I read her description of how she found out about Michael Jackson’s death, the earthquake in Haiti and other major news events through Facebook, I remember thinking to myself: “I do that, too. But is it really that big a deal?”

As it turns out, it just might be a big deal, in the sense that whatever a social network of 300 million people does tends to be a big deal. According to research from Hitwise, the number of visits from Facebook to news and media web sites has been climbing rapidly — particularly when compared with Google News, which has barely budged from where it was a year ago. Hitwise staffer Heather Hopkins writes that “Last week, Google Reader accounted for .01% of upstream visits to News and Media websites, about the same level as a year ago. Google News accounted for 1.39% of visits and Facebook 3.52%.”

As Marshall Kirkpatrick has pointed out in a recent post at ReadWriteWeb, not many people (apart from hardcore geeks and news junkies) use RSS readers such as Google Reader. Increasingly, regular folk seem to be getting their news from social networks such as Facebook as well as from the usual news sites such as MSN, Yahoo and Google News. And as more and more traditional media entities build out their Facebook presence, that trend seems likely to continue.

One thing that might be hindering this process, however, is that most major media outlets are still only sharing a fraction of the news they have on their web sites through Facebook — and even then, it’s often the “soft” features or lifestyle issues rather than hard news. Many of the leading sites such as the New York Times and The Guardian use their pages in part for contests and other promotional items as opposed to news, although that could be changing as they get used to being on the network.

Another factor that’s likely accelerating the use of Facebook for news is the integration of Facebook Connect into web sites such as The Huffington Post, as well as The Washington Post and USA Today, a feature which allows readers to log in with their Facebook credentials and then share stories and comments from those sites with their friends through their Facebook news feed. Do you use Facebook for news? Let us know in the comments.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Captain Suresh

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  1. I believe we are at the beggining of a massive change in the way we consume news. Twitter and Facebook have popularized the stream. If nothing else, Facebook will influence the design of MSN or New York Times. 300M people are getting used to the efficiencies of the stream and consuming content in the stream.

    As far as getting the news via Facebook, for the mass majority Friending or Following is much easier to understand than RSS.

    Cheers,
    Bill Flitter
    Founder
    Dlvr.it

  2. I’ve been hearing the same story from more and more web publishers: that they are seeing a substantial amount of their traffic building from Facebook and Twitter, including two site operators that told me that they are seeing almost 50% of their traffic from the social graph.

    For the consumer, there’s something behind this that I am glad to see: a return of the serendipity of discovery to the web. This was what Yahoo had going for it way back in the beginning, with the “cool” sunglasses icon, the what’s new lists, and the randomness of the site of the day. And while Google has been great for helping us find what we are looking for when we know we are looking, Facebook and Twitter are finding a niche in suggesting things to us proactively.

  3. Social Milestone » Blog Archive » Facebook Has All The News That's Fit to Share – GigaOM Wednesday, February 3, 2010
  4. I thought this was what Twitter was all about, that people link to interesting news. I also fail to see the big deal, although, as you identified, when anything happens on Facebook there is the weight of 300 million people behind it.

    Good post.

    1. Thanks, Ishmael.

  5. I absolutely use Facebook to discover news articles. Frequently it comes directly from my following a news blog like Mashable or directly from the publishers like the new york times and washington post. I also frequently share articles of interest. Because it has other social features, I find it more appealing than twitter. Though I do use google side bar’s built in RSS feed – which also works quite well.

  6. I prefer Google Reader and Twitter (80 subs on GR and I’m following more than 300 users organized in 12 groups on Tweetdeck), they are the best news sources for me, but I’m experimenting with Facebook as a news reader too and I think it could be interesting and become mainstream.
    I wrote a short tutorial (with pics) on how to set Facebook as a news reader, check it out if you’re interested :)
    http://www.bealoud.com/social-media/facebook-news-reader/

  7. I find Facebook to be a very, very poor source of news compared to Twitter, but that might be because I’m not interested in being “friends” with people I don’t know in real life through Facebook, where they automatically get full access to everything in my life (such as pictures) whereas with twitter they ONLY get access to my stream.

    Facebook also sucks for sharing links. Twitter’s usability is much, much better for links.

  8. Liberal Education Tomorrow: » Facebook as new reader: a new player in journalism? Thursday, February 4, 2010

    [...] does Facebook work as a news portal?  Let GigaOM explain: two different ways — both by picking up news from the friends you follow through their news [...]

  9. I use Twitter all the time as a sort of news discovery engine these days.

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