For years, social media has been a growing news source. Now, that’s changing.
A new study commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals that the use of social media for news is down 6 percentage points in the US. At the same time, users are now increasingly turning to messaging apps such as Snapchat and Facebook-owned WhatsApp for news.
The survey of over 74,000 online news consumers in 37 countries, including the US, was conducted by YouGov through an online questionnaire at the end of January and beginning of February. Some 44 percent of those surveyed said they trust the news in general and 51 percent have faith in the news media they use most of the time. In contrast, 34 percent believe the news they find via search and less than a quarter, just 23 percent, trust the news they find on social media.
In the US, “weekly social media use for news grew steadily from 27 percent in 2013 to a peak of 51 percent before falling back significantly this year to 45 percent,” the report notes. The recent decline can be almost entirely attributed to changes in the way people are using Facebook, the most popular social network for news in nearly every country.
While Facebook use has remained relatively steady in recent years, news consumption on the platform “is down 9 percentage points in the United States and 20 points with younger groups.”
Part of the issue is that “consumers are being put off by toxic debates and unreliable news” on Facebook. At the same time, “they are also finding that alternative networks offer more convenience, greater privacy, and less opportunity to be misunderstood.”
Facebook may have already got the memo. The social network earlier this month ditched its Trending news section, saying the feature had outlived its usefulness and failed to gain much traction among users. It’s also now prioritizing posts from friends and family over those from publishers and other public Pages on the News Feed.
Meanwhile, Twitter just yesterday announced plans to start bringing news front and center with personalized feeds.
As Facebook news consumption falls, users are more often clicking on messaging apps in search of “more private (and less confrontational) spaces to communicate.”
“WhatsApp use for news has almost tripled since 2014 and has overtaken Twitter in importance in many countries,” including Malaysia and Brazil, the report notes. In the US, “Snapchat is making progress … particularly with younger users.”