It’s official: News consumption is all about social and mobile

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Anyone who watches the way those around them consume the news, or thinks about their own news consumption habits, is probably well aware of how large a role social networks like Twitter and Facebook now play in the way we get news, and also of how much that consumption is coming through mobile devices. A new report released Thursday by the Pew Center for the People & the Press confirms that both of those trends are large and growing — the study says that the influence of mobile in news consumption has almost doubled since 2010 and the impact of social networks has almost tripled in the same period. Those numbers are even higher for younger users.

The Pew report notes that the number of Americans who regularly go online for news has remained almost exactly the same since it did a similar study in 2010: about 46 percent said that they get news online at least three days a week. But the number of people who said they regularly get news on a cellphone, tablet or other mobile device has ballooned from 9 percent to 15 percent— and the number who said that they regularly see news on social networks has gone from 7 percent to 20 percent.Pew notes that these two trends also go together, in the sense that users who have smartphones (about 48 percent of those surveyed) were far more likely to see news on social networking sites. And those who have iPads, Kindles and other tablets — who made up about 21 percent of those surveyed — are also much more likely to get their news from social networks.

According to the survey, more than 30 percent of the respondents between 18 and 39 years of age said they regularly saw news or news headlines on social networks, compared with about 20 percent two years ago. One interesting note in the report was the tiny proportion of users who said that they got news from Twitter, which is seen by many as a news-driven network — only 3 percent of general internet users said they got news from Twitter, and less than 30 percent of regular Twitter users said they got news there.

It wasn’t immediately clear from the study whether the users who were surveyed got all of their news by reading headlines from social networks or other sources, or whether they followed links from Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn to newspaper or other websites to get more information. Most publishers say those networks have become an increasingly powerful source of traffic, but some readers may get enough of the headlines or news items they need simply by reading posts on Twitter or Facebook — in the same way that earlier users may have gotten their fill of news from headlines on the radio or on television.

One thing is also obvious from the Pew report: namely, that newspaper readership continues its long, slow decline — and radio has also been following the same general pattern. The study says that the number of Americans who read a newspaper the day before the survey was taken fell to 23 percent, down only a few percentage points from 2010’s survey, but down by more than half from the number who said the same a decade earlier.And while TV news consumption has held up much better, it has been in decline over the past few years as well, and the Pew report notes that the future looks like more of the same given how few younger users say they use it for news: only 34 percent of those under 30 said they do this regularly, almost exactly the same proportion that said they got their news primarily from social networks.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr user George Kelly

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