For American adults under 30, social media has far surpassed newspapers and has equaled TV as a primary source of daily news, according to a new study of news consumption trends by the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press.

The study found 33 percent of those young adults got news from social networks the day before, while 34 percent watched TV news and just 13 percent read print or digital newspaper content.

Overall, the study says, the major trends driving the growth and change of digital news are social media, as well as the rapid adoption of mobile Internet devices.

The top-level trends in social media news consumption:

  • 19 percent of all Americans got news from a social network like Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn yesterday (up from 9 percent in 2010).
  • Among people using social networks, 36 percent got news there yesterday (up from 19 percent in 2010).
Overall use of social media for news consumption is growing, and the rates are similar across three age groups from 18 to 39.

And in mobile news consumption:

  • 17 percent of all Americans got news on a mobile device yesterday.
  • Among the people who own smartphones, 31 percent got news on them yesterday.

These trends are not unrelated. The growth of mobile media is a major driver of the growth in social media, the study finds. People who go online with mobile devices are three times more likely to get news from social media as those who only use the desktop Web (30 percent vs. 9 percent).

Twitter users more likely to connect with journalists

Twitter’s overall usage among the American population remains limited, but growing. And those who do use Twitter “are increasingly getting news and sharing news stories with others,” the study finds.

Only 11 percent of all Americans get news from Twitter, but among Twitter users a majority get news there and tweet news.

This study measured Twitter separately from other social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

That is unusual, as most studies lump all together as “social media.” But it is probably useful, because Twitter functions more as an “interest network” than a “social network.” Follower relationships are based on shared interests, whereas the other networks tend to organize around personal relationships.

One effect of that difference is that Twitter users connect more with journalists and news organizations.

“More than a third (36%) of those with Twitter accounts use them to follow news organizations or journalists,” the study says. “On social networking sites, 19% of users say they got information there from news organizations or journalists.”

Mobile news apps reach young, wealthy audience

More Americans are downloading news apps in the past couple years, the survey says:

  • 25 percent of all Americans (up from 16 percent in 2010).
  • 45 percent of mobile Internet users (up from 20 percent in 2010).

Those growth rates are encouraging, but still a majority of mobile Internet users have not downloaded a news app to their devices.

“Those who have downloaded news apps tend to be young, well-educated and wealthy,” the study says. “…Even among mobile Internet users, there are sizable income differences: Fully 60% of mobile Internet users with incomes of at least $100,000 have downloaded a news app, compared with 40% of those with incomes of $30,000 or less.”

Other research has shown a greater number of readers prefer to use mobile websites rather than news apps, but those who use apps are power users who read more content and are more likely to pay.

The Pew study was based on 3,003 phone interviews conducted in May and early June. The total margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points, and that margin increases for smaller subsamples such as mobile Internet users (3.0 points), social network users (2.9 points) and Twitter users (6.3 points).

Source: Poynter

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