PEW Research Center has recently published their biennial news consumption survey, looking at trends in news consumption over the last 20 years. One of the most promising trends for digital newsrooms is that their format of news is the only one that has seen growth in the last two decades, with 46% of Americans getting news online at least three times a week. Currently, a third (32%) of US Americans get their news online on a daily basis.
A good part of the increase in online news consumption can be attributed to readers accessing online news through mobile and tablet devices. One in five Americans have got their news on a mobile device, 78% of these people did so using a smartphone. News consumption is one of the most popular activities on tablets and mobile.
Consumption of news via social media has also undergone interesting growth. Nearly 1-in-5 Americans saw news headlines on social media, the proportion of people getting news headlines or news regularly from these sources has nearly tripled from 7% to 20%. And it’s not only the very young who use social media to get their news: the number of people in their 40′s getting news from social nearly tripled from 8% to 23%, the number of 50-64 year-old’s doubled from 5% to 10%.
Although those of us who participate in journalism use Twitter frequently, the rest of US adults do not. Only 13% of Americans use Twitter and only 11% of those have ever seen news on Twitter and only 3% saw it yesterday. If we look at the entire population of the US, around 311 million, only 30 million are on Twitter, so only around 3 million US adults have ever seen news on Twitter. This pales in comparison to Facebook, who have a 53% penetration rate of the American public and around 166 million users - according to PEW data 47% of adults get news on Facebook and other social sites – that’s around 78 million people.
Although traditional news sources still dominate how people get their news, digital has seen dramatic growth in the last two decades. There’s been increased growth in the portion of people getting news from social networks. Twitter, however, although very useful for journalists, has a relatively small audience – reaching only 1% of adults from 50-64 year-old’s–compared to digital/online’s reach of 35% of 50-64 year-old’s. This makes twitter a great way to share news among various communities that use the site diligently (including journalists), but not to the general public. Meanwhile a third of Facebook users share news, however 70% of these users report getting those news links from family and friends, only 13% report getting them from news organizations or journalists.
We recommend digital newsrooms focus on gaining traffic and views on their content. Social is a great way to bring those readers in but your website should be the place where readers consume your content. It’s where your organization can monetize through ads and editors can see the levels of engagement through web analytics. An interesting point was made by Dennis Mortensen, co-founder of analytics provider Visual Revenue, in a recent Editor and Published article
“Don’t surrender your wonderful brand to the Facebooks of the world. Extract as much value as you can from those channels, but only with the primary purpose of actually gaining a reader for later. Turn a Tweet into a reader who knows you for who you are, will bypass those channels, and go directly to your front page or tablet/mobile offerings.”
As the sources of news consumption change, newsrooms will have to adjust accordingly and bring news to where their audiences are: online, on social, and on mobile.