October 24, 2013

The Role of News on Facebook

Who Uses Facebook for News

The Young

Profile of the Facebook News ConsumerDemographically, Facebook news consumers are notably young – younger, even, than Facebook users more broadly.

The average adult Facebook news consumer is 39, a full eight years younger than other adults on Facebook and younger than the average U.S. adult.

Further, about a third, 34%, of Facebook news consumers are 18-29 years old, compared with only 20% of other Facebook users.

Younger Facebook news consumers are as engaged in news on the site as other Facebook news consumers are. Facebook news consumers who are 18-29 years old are as likely as older age groups – or more so – to go there for breaking news (32%, compared with 30% among 30- to 49-year-olds and 21% of those 50 and older), to say it is an important way they get news (48%, compared with 44% and 36%, respectively) and to get news across topics at roughly the same levels. Other Pew Research Center data have found this is not the case more broadly. In general, when young people do get news, they tend to be less engaged with that news than are older Americans.

Followers of News on Other Platforms

Facebook News Consumers as Likely as Others to Get News from Other SourcesFacebook news consumers still get news on other platforms at about the same levels as the population overall. Roughly four-in-ten Facebook news consumers (42%) regularly watch local television news, as do 46% of all U.S. adults; 23% watch cable news (compared with 24% of all U.S. adults); 21% often read print newspapers (compared with 27% of the population overall);11% read print news magazines (versus 13% of the general population).

And Facebook news consumers differ little from the overall population in the reasons they cite for following the news. Broad majorities say they follow the news because they enjoy talking about the news with family and friends (72%) or out of a sense of civic obligation (67%). Many (60%) also say they follow the news for entertainment or because it improves their lives (54%); just 18% say they follow news because they have to for school or their career.

More Active Facebook Users Overall

News does not seem to replace other activities on Facebook. Rather, news consumers visit the site for more reasons, spend more time on the platform, have been Facebook users for more years and have more Facebook friends than Facebook users who do not get news on the site.

Facebook News Consumers Take Part in a Wide Mix of Other Facebook ActivitiesWhen asked about several possible reasons people visit the site in the first place, Facebook news consumers are more likely to mention each as a major reason. For instance, while keeping up with friends and family is the biggest single driver to the site for both groups, 77% of Facebook news consumers say this is a “major reason” they use Facebook, compared with 60% of other Facebook users. This greater intensity holds true across most of the other reasons offered,  including chatting with friends and family on the platform (49% vs. 29%), posting personal updates (26% vs. 9%), seeing photos and video from friends (70% vs. 55%) and sharing their own photos and videos (38% vs. 20%).

Facebook news consumers also spend more time on the site than other users do. About two-thirds (65%) of those who get news on Facebook say they visit the site several times a day, compared with only three out of 10 (29%) of other Facebook users. In addition, about six-in-ten Facebook news consumers (61%) say they check Facebook throughout the day or leave the site open, compared with a quarter (25%) of other Facebook users. And half (50%) of Facebook news consumers say they started using Facebook four or more years ago, compared with 33% of Facebook users who do not get news there. Facebook news consumers also, on average, have more Facebook friends than other users (241 versus 147).