According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of U.S. adults (53%) say they regularly or periodically get their news from social media. Only 21% say they’ve never relied on social media to stay informed.
Interestingly, even though most U.S. adults consume news on social media, not all of them believe in its accuracy. A 2020 Pew Research Center survey indicated that only 39% of people who read updates on social media believe the information is accurate. The majority (59%) think most of the news they read is largely inaccurate or entirely fabricated.
There’s been a significant transition away from the traditional news sources of print, radio, and TV to digital devices and plat-forms. Digital devices — smartphone, computer, or tablet — are by far the most common way adults in our country now access their news. For example, about half of U.S. adults say they prefer a digital device compared to the 33% who prefer TV, 7% who prefer radio, and 5% who refer print. News consumption across platforms varies by age and other demo-graphic factors. For example, those under 50 are more likely to turn to digital devices and prefer them for getting news than are those 50 and older.
Not surprisingly, the paid circulation of daily newspapers peaked in 1987 when they amounted to over 62.82 million. By 2020, the paid circulation of daily newspapers had fallen to 24.29 million and continues to decline.
While digital devices are now the most common way to access news, where people get that news is divided among several digital platforms. They include news websites, apps, search engines, podcasts, and social media.
Here’s the breakdown of which social media U.S. adults regularly use to get news:
Some platforms stand out as having a greater portion of users turning to the site for news even if their total audience is relatively small. For example, Twitter has the reputation of being the “breaking news” platform and just over half of Twitter users regularly get news from the site. This speaks to the value of timely content that informs users, builds community, and fosters discussion.
In many cases, there are demographic differences between the people who regularly turn to each social media platform for news:
Why are social media platforms and other online news sources so popular? There are many reasons, some of which are addressed in the “Pro” listings in the sidebar below. But another major appeal of these platforms is that they’re often available at no cost to the consumer. Paying for news found via digital outlets is not yet commonplace in the U.S., with only 21 percent of U.S. consumers in an early 2021 study reporting having paid for online news content in the last year.
Clearly, social media as both a source of news and a creator of news is here to stay, since it’s added valuable new dimensions to the experience. However, the role of social media in news also presents challenges to us all, which must be thoughtfully considered as we move forward in the years ahead.