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