Social media tops newspapers as a news source

In this age of ‘fake news’, spread predominantly through social media platforms, it is quite alarming that more people are now getting their daily news from social media outlets than from newspapers. Clearly, there is a need to make social media vendors more responsible for ensuring the veracity of news they publish.

A new survey from Pew Research Center, the US-based non-partisan global center for information on social issues, public opinion and demographic trends, shows that social media has for the first-time surpassed newspapers as a preferred source of news for American adults.

The two-week-long survey conducted between July and August of this year shows that 20 percent of US adults now get their news from social media, compared with just 16 percent from newspapers. Last year, the portion of those who got their news from social media was around equal to those who got their news from newspapers.

Another enlightening item in the survey was that even though so many people continue to primarily consume news via social media, they do not always trust it. Over half (57%) expect the news they find on social media to be inaccurate. It is difficult to explain the high rate of news consumption on social media with the attending high percentage of distrust. One probable explanation is the ease of access and repeated use of social media throughout the day. The survey showed that 74 percent of people visit Facebook at least once a day.

Though the news is disheartening, it is not new news to newspapers, where circulation figures have been steadily eroding for years as the medium’s popularity with the younger generation keeps declining. In fact, the Pew report noted that print continues to remain popular only in the 65 and above age-group, where 39 percent get their news from newspapers, while no more than 18 percent in any other age cohort received their news from newspapers.

Even though news consumption from traditional news outlets have been declining in recent years, television still continues to dominate as the most popular destination for getting news. This is followed by news websites, radio, social media and then newspapers. The survey showed that television news, from local stations, national broadcasts and cable, remained popular with 49 percent of US adults, while the combination of news websites and social media together accounted for 43 percent of news consumption.

The survey also showed a growing age gap between TV and web. Over 80 percent of those 65 and older and 65 percent of those in the 50 to 64 age group get their news from TV, while only 16 percent of those in the 18 to 29 age bracket and 36 percent of those in the 30 to 49 group get their news from TV. The youngest demographic greatly prefers digital consumption, with 27 percent getting news from news websites and 36 percent from social media, while only 8 percent in the oldest group prefer their news on social media. Surprisingly, news websites remain popular among all age cohorts, with the 30 to 49-year-old crowd being the most voracious consumers (42%) of news websites, followed by 28 percent among the two older age groups and 27 percent among the youngest crowd.

Interestingly, the young crowd also do not rely on one platform in the way that the majority of their elders rely on TV. No more than half of those ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 get news often from any one news platform.