Nearly half of all Facebook users get news from the popular social media website, but the overwhelming majority of those individuals do so incidentally, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. Pew, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, conducted a nationally representative online survey of over 5,100 adults and found that 47-percent of Facebook users – about 30 percent of the entire American population – have “ever” gotten news through the social network. However, those who do learn of world events – which Pew dubbed “Facebook news consumers” by Pew – rarely log into their accounts for that purpose. In fact, the survey found that 78 percent of those men and women said that they end up reading news while using Facebook for other purposes. Just four percent said it was their top source for news coverage. “People go to Facebook to share personal moments – and they discover the news almost incidentally,” Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s
director of journalism research, told AFP on Wednesday. “The serendipitous nature of news on Facebook may actually increase its importance as a source of news and information, especially among those who do not follow the news closely.” Furthermore, people who did not regularly follow the news were more likely to consider the social media website to be an ‘important’ news source. Thirty-eight percent of men and women who said that they followed the news “all” or “most” of the time described Facebook as an important information source, compared to 47 percent for those who said that they followed the news just “some” of the time or even less. “All in all, then, it may be the very incidental nature of the site that ultimately exposes more people to news there. Indeed, the more time one spends on the site, the more likely they are to get news there,” wrote the authors of the Pew study. “Two-thirds (67 percent) of those who use Facebook for at least an hour a day get news there compared
with only 41 percent of those who spend less than an hour a day on the site.” The research also revealed that 42-percent of Facebook news consumers frequently watch local television news coverage, but just 21-percent said that they typically read print newspapers, Yu said. Entertainment was described as the most popular news topic for Facebook news consumers, but 49 percent of those people said that they regularly get news on at least six different topics. Forty-three percent said that they tend to post or share news-related links, and approximately one-third of Facebook news consumers said that they prefer news which agrees with their own particular point of view on issues. In comparison, just 27 percent of all US adults feel that way. Moreover, some 32 percent reported having discussed recent newsworthy issues with other men and women on the social network.