October 24, 2013

The Role of News on Facebook

The Role of News on Facebook

Reasons People Go to FacebookAlthough Facebook has grown beyond its beginnings as a way to connect people with friends and family, those connections remain the primary reason people go to Facebook.

For 68% of Facebook users, seeing what friends and family are up to is a major reason they go to the site. Nearly as many, 62%, say the same of seeing friends’ photos. Less commonly cited reasons include engaging in conversations with friends and family (38%) and sharing one’s own photos or videos (28%). And just 16% of Facebook users say getting news is a major reason they use Facebook, on par with the proportion who say posting personal updates (17%) or playing games (14%) are major reasons. One respondent summed it up with, “News on Facebook is just something that happens.”

Facebook users are split over whether they like having posts about news mixed in with other kinds of posts in their feed (52% enjoy it, 47% do not), but few are particularly bothered by news posts. When asked about things that people do on Facebook that might bother them, just 10% of Facebook users say it bothers them when friends or family post news stories.

They also are not very bothered when people post opinions about news stories (just 16% say they are bothered by this). By contrast, about half of Facebook users are bothered when people share information that is very personal (52%) or brag or complain about their lives (47%), while 37% say it bothers them when friends or family post many times a day, and about as many (35%) are bothered when people post political statements. As one survey respondent put it, “I like being informed of things happening in our nation, I just don’t care to hear someone’s political agenda!”

The only category less bothersome than posts about news stories is posting pictures of children or pets; just 7% say this bothers them.

Facebook Seen as a Supplemental News SourceYet, very few of those who get news on Facebook – just 4% – find the social networking site to be the most important way they get news. An additional 39% say it is important, but not the most important. A majority, 57%, say Facebook is not a very important way they get news. As a respondent explained, “For me Facebook is mostly about entertainment, not news. But, if I see a story that interests me, I’ll read it. But Facebook would not be my first choice for news.”

Additionally, the vast majority of people, 78%, who get news on the platform encounter news on Facebook mostly because they are on the site for other reasons. And news on Facebook is not seen as unique to the site; three-quarters, 75%, say that the news they see on Facebook is news they encounter in other places.

Nonetheless, there is a small portion of Facebook news consumers for whom the social media site plays a large role in their news diet. One respondent who is among the 4% who say Facebook is their most important source of news writes that the platform provides “a wider range of news than from any single news source, mostly from links or shares posted by other people.”

Facebook also tends to be of greater value in informing those who do not typically follow news all or most of the time. While 38% of Facebook news consumers who say they follow the news all or most of the time say Facebook is an important way they get news, the figure rises to 46% among those who say they follow news some of the time, and 48% among those who follow news less often.

And, as a reflection of the incidental nature of news on Facebook, the more one is on the site, the more likely they are to get news there. About  two-thirds (67%) of those who use Facebook for at least an hour a day get news there, compared with only 41% of those who spend less than an hour a day on the site. And more than half, 57%, say that Facebook is an important way they get news, versus 36% who spend less than an hour a day on Facebook.

Similarly, about two-thirds (68%) of those who check Facebook throughout the day get news there, compared with just a third (32%) of those who check Facebook from time to time.