Half of Americans Now Use Social Media As A News Source; Messaging Apps Becoming More Popular

June 23, 2017

The most rapidly growing news source for Americans is social media, according to the latest annual Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report. In fact, this year for the first time a majority (51%) of Americans surveyed reported using social media as a source of news during the prior week.

This year’s tally is almost double the share using social for news as recently as 2013 (27%).

Worth noting is that social media is part of the overall news media mix, though: two-thirds of social media news users in the US also get news from the TV, and two-thirds likewise also visit mainstream websites or apps for news. Just 2% use social media exclusively for news in a typical week.

Even so, social media is emerging as the main source of news for many youth around the world. Across the 36 markets, fully one-third of 18-24-year-old news consumers reported that social media is their main source of news, which is more than TV (24%) and print newspapers (5%) combined.

Digital media (online news sites and social media), meanwhile, are the main sources of news for a majority of respondents under the age of 45.

Social As News Source Declines in Some Markets

While it has been a steady upward trajectory in social media news consumption in the US, the same can’t be said for some other key markets. For example, weekly use of news dropped by a couple of percentage points in Spain (to 58%) and France (to 38%), with bigger declines seen in Brazil (-6 points to 66%), Australia (-6 points, to 46%), Italy (-5 points to 38%) and Portugal (-4 points, to 62%).

Messaging Apps on the Rise

While messaging apps aren’t as popular for news as social media platforms, they are becoming more influential players.

This year almost one-quarter (23%) of respondents overall report finding, sharing or discussing news using a messaging app. The leading app for news is WhatsApp, used by 15% of respondents in the week prior to the survey, followed by Facebook Messenger, used by about half as many (8%).

Those averages mask some considerable differences across countries. For example, an impressive 51% of respondents in Malaysia said they use WhatsApp for news purposes in a typical week, with Brazil (46%) not far behind.

By contrast, just 3% in the US use WhatsApp for the news. That’s consistent with other research indicating that while social media plays a sizable role in digital media consumption in the US, messaging is a fractional player relative to other markets.

The full report – which contains many more findings about digital news consumption and trust – can be found here.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey of more than 70,000 news consumers in 36 markets, with a minimum of 2,000 respondents per market with the exception of Taiwan (1,017).

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