Pew Research Reveals How Americans Find News and Information Online

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

When most people think about social media, they think about funny photos and posts from their friends. And while much of social media is still fun and games, there’s no denying that people use social media as a source for news and information. Most business owners and marketers should not be surprised by this, but what is surprising is just how many people use social media as a source for information. A recent survey from Pew Research reveals how people interact with news and information they find on social media.

PJ_2017.02.09_Experiential_0-01Back in February and March of 2016, Pew Research interviewed 2,000 people multiple times a day for a week to learn how they access news and information online. According to the data, people were almost equally likely to get news from a news website or app (36 percent of the sources cited) as they were to get it from social media (35 percent).

Facebook performed particularly well in the survey. People cited Facebook as a source for news information 10 percent of the time during the survey. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people were reading articles on Facebook. Rather, this total would include situations where people see a link to an article in a post on Facebook and then go to the link. They actually got the news from a website, but they were likely to cite Facebook since that would be easier to remember than the name of the website the link was for.

This sort of interaction via Facebook is good for blog owners, since the number of people that get their news from things they searched for on a search engine is declining. Search engines accounted for a fifth (20 percent) of the cited sources for news. But as indicated above, the articles that people are seeing linked on social media are the same ones that would show up in search. So for the website that’s linked, it doesn’t matter if they come from Facebook or a search engine, so long as they click the link one way or another.

The research also has some valuable insights into tactics that are losing their effectiveness. Email marketing is a great way to inform customers about deals, but it may not be the best way to spread news quickly. The same is true for SMS marketing. According to Pew, consumers were less likely to access news through emails or text messages.

The most important takeaway from this research is that getting people to share content is essential for getting news to spread. According to the researchers, “when people got news through social media, they went on to re-share that news on social media one out of four times. On the other hand, no single digital action stands out for news that came from a direct connection with a news organization.”

For some demographic breakdowns, the survey reveals, “When 18- to 29-year-old online news consumers clicked on news links, they remembered the source about half the time (47%), at least 10 percentage points less than their elders (57% for 30- to 49-year-olds and 61% for those 50 and older). And these younger online news consumers got their news through social media 47% of the time on average, about double the rate of those 50 and older (23%), and about on par with those ages 30 to 49 (42%). Those 50 and older, on the other hand, stand out for their heavier reliance on news organizations’ emails, texts and alerts.”

Business owners and marketers that need to spread news or information to consumers should certainly consider using social media to spread the links. It can be as effective as getting your news featured on a local news website.

For more news about online marketing, read this article on a study about website marketing tactics.


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