Social Media a Significant Digital Source of News in the US

July 10, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Metrics | Europe & Middle East | Men | Newspapers | Radio | Social Media | Television | Women

reutersinstitute-online-news-sources-july2012.png36% of US news consumers (who have consumed any news in the past month) said they had used social media and blogs as a news source in the week prior to a Reuters Institute survey conducted in April and released in July 2012. This is double the proportion that had consulted social media for news in the UK (18%), Germany (18%), and France (17%), with social media slightly more influential in Denmark (23%). Interestingly, while the websites of traditional news sources attract digital audiences in Europe, they appear to be slightly less popular in the US than other online news sources such as web portals and entertainment sites.

Despite social media’s significance in the US, the sites still trail broadcaster (46%) and newspaper (50%) websites in terms of popularity. This finding mirrors results from a Pew Research Center study released in March, which found that social media was not a primary driver of news recommendations and information for online consumers in the US.

Online News is King in the US

Data from the “Reuters Institute Digital News Report” indicates that 86% of the US survey respondents had used online news sources in the week prior to the survey, making the internet a far more popular source than TV (69%), print (45%), and radio (33%). The results showed marked differences across the studied countries. For instance, Germans were far more likely than Americans to say they had used the radio to access news (68% vs. 33%), and far less likely to have gone online (61% vs. 86%). In fact, in Germany, the internet was the least popular news source cited. In France, TV was more often consulted than the internet (80% vs. 77%), though the internet took the top spot in the UK and Denmark.

The study notes that as an online survey, the results will under-represent older people’s consumption habits, namely use of newspapers, radio and TV.

US Readers More Involved

The Reuters survey also finds that US news readers are more likely to participate digitally with the news than the other countries studied. 69% of US respondents selected at least 1 of the 9 participation options provided (including voting in an online poll, commenting on a story on a social network), outpacing participation rates in France (60%), Denmark (45%), the UK (42%), and Germany (41%).

The increased significance of social media in the US when compared to the other countries also means that US news readers are more apt to comment on a news story on a social network. 27% reported doing so in an average week, compared to 21% in France, and just 12% in Germany. American readers are also most likely – by a wide margin – to comment about a news story on a website, engage in a 1-to-1 conversation about a news story (e.g. over social media), and post or send a news-related picture or video to a social network site.

Other Findings:

  • 82% of US respondents said they access news (via traditional or online media) on a daily basis. This trails Germans (89%) and Danes (88%).
  • Daily news access by US news readers is higher among males than females (86% vs. 78%).
  • Daily news access in the US tends to increase in proportion alongside age, though it displays an opposite trend in the UK.
  • Among online users, 41% in the US have used social media as a news source in the past week, while 62% have used new players and aggregators. These are the highest figures among the countries studied. However, the proportion in the US accessing the news through traditional brands (78%) is lower than in the UK and Denmark.
  • 63% of US news consumers say that domestic political news is most important to them, compared to 16% who say that celebrity news is most important.
  • Less than 10% of US respondents said they have paid for digital news.

About the Data: The Reuters research was conducted online by YouGove in April 2012. There were 814 respondents in the US, 2173 in the UK, 1011 in France, 970 in Germany, and 1002 in Denmark.

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