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The demographics of social media news consumers

by: Nancy Yoshihara |

The five social networking sites with the biggest news audiences appeal to somewhat different groups, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

While there is some crossover among Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn users, Instagram news viewers “stand out from the other groups as more likely to be non-white, young and, for all but Facebook female,” according to Jeffrey Gottfried and Elisa Shearer, authors of News Use across Social Media Platforms 2016

“LinkedIn news consumers are more likely to have a college degree than news users of the other four platforms; Twitter news users are the second most likely,” they wrote in the report.

Of those getting news on at least one of these five sites, the majority or 64 percent use only one—Facebook. About 24 percent use two of the sites. Only 10 percent use three or more for news, according to the Pew survey conducted in association with John S. and James L Knight Foundation.

Overall, 62 percent of U.S. adults get their news on social media and 18 percent do so often, compared to 49 percent in 2012, based on a slightly different question about seeing news on social media. 

How does social media news usage translate to the U.S. adult population overall?

“Facebook is by far the largest social networking site, reaching 67% of U.S. adults. The two-thirds of Facebook users who get news there, then, amount to 44% of the general population. YouTube has the next greatest reach in terms of general usage, at 48% of U.S. adults. But only about a fifth of its users get news there, which amounts to 10% of the adult population. That puts it on par with Twitter, which has a smaller user base (16% of U.S. adults) but a larger portion getting news there,” Gottfried and Shearer explain. 

The survey, part of a Pew’s ongoing study of social media and news, analyzed the scope and characteristics of social media news consumers across nine social networking sites. The survey was conducted January 12-February 8, 2016, with 4,654 members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Nancy Yoshihara

Nancy Yoshihara is content manager at KDMC and its website with a focus on News for Digital Innovators and Tools, Tips
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