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3/27/2014
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Social Media And Future Of News: 8 Findings

Pew Research Center finds reason to believe that American journalism has a future -- and social media will play a key role.

7 Facebook Wishes For 2014
7 Facebook Wishes For 2014
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In its 2014 review of the state of the media industry, the Pew Research Center finds reason to believe that American journalism has a future -- something that hasn't been obvious after years of belt tightening, layoffs, technological changes, and newspaper closures.

New digital media companies have arisen and thrived, many with the help of talented people from traditional media organizations. Entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, John Henry, and Pierre Omidyar are bringing needed investment and the perspective of outsiders to the industry. And there is evidence that social media have become a meaningful channel to reach the young audience necessary to sustain the news industry as the newspaper generation ages.

But the need for revenue has brought change that challenges traditional media practices. Pew's report finds that "the overlap between public relations and news noted in last year's State of the News Media report became even more pronounced." Many online publications now include content that is paid for by commercial advertisers and cannot easily be distinguished from reported stories. Sometimes this sponsored content is even written by staff news writers. The metrics firm eMarketer predicts these "native ads" -- promotional copy dressed up as reported news -- will generate $2.85 billion of revenue this year.

[Has Facebook become overwhelming? Here's how to cut down on the clutter. Read 5 Facebook Spring Cleaning Tips.]

The importance of social media to news is hard to overestimate. The Pew Research Center cites eight findings about social media and their relationship with news that people should take from its report.

1. News matters more on some social media sites than on others.
According to the Pew report, 30% of Americans get at least some news while on Facebook. On YouTube, that figure is 10%. On Twitter, it's 8%. Few users of Instagram and Pinterest get their news there.

2. Reading news on Facebook is secondary to social interactions.
The report says that 78% of Facebook news users tend to see news while using Facebook for other activities, and that only 34% of Facebook users who read news there bother to Like a news organization or journalist. Facebook is probably not the ideal place for news organizations to develop deep audience engagement.

3. News seen through Facebook covers a wide range of topics.
Though entertainment news is the most commonly seen category among Facebook users (73%), other categories are well represented. Science/technology and business are the two least popular topics, at 37% and 31%, respectively.

4. Engagement is a key part of social news interaction.
Among social networking site users, 50% shared or reposted news stories, images, or videos; 46% discussed a news issue or event; 14% posted their own photo of a news event; and 12% posted their own video of a news event.

5. Twitter represents a passionate community, but its views differ from the mainstream.
As an example, Pew's study notes that, in the days following the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shootings, 64% of Twitter users called for stricter gun control laws. A broader Pew public opinion poll at the time found only 49% of respondents supported that view.

6. The sentiments expressed in Twitter conversations might be fickle.
The report notes that, from April 1 to April 14 of last year, 55% of Twitter users expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, and 32% expressed support. Yet, from April 15 through May 12, 46% expressed support for same-sex marriage, while 26% opposed it.

7. The audience for news differs across social platforms.
On Facebook, the percentage of male news consumers is 42%, and the percentage of female news consumers is 58%. On YouTube -- where commenters can hide behind pseudonyms -- the gender distribution is almost reversed: 57% male and 43% female. On LinkedIn, the gender disparity is even more pronounced: 67% male and 37% female. On Twitter, it's an even 50-50 split, but its audience has the highest percentage of young adults: 45% are between 18 and 29, compared with just 18% on LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn has the largest percentage of users with at least a bachelor's degree (64%).

8. Visitors who come to a news website through Facebook or search-related display advertising are less engaged than those who seek the site out directly.
Though Facebook and search might matter for hitting website traffic targets, they don't seem all that helpful for building a long-term, sustainable audience.

Social networking and news clearly have a future together. There's already a startup called Newsle that will send you news about people in your social network. But the results of that hookup can be expected to vary: Social engagement isn't the same thing as a sustainable revenue model.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
4/4/2014 | 11:04:28 AM
Re: Where do you get your news?
LinkedIn has invested a LOT on becoming a news destination, from relaunching LinkedIn Today as Pulse and adding user-generated content with blogs. News seems like a good fit for a professional social network, but like you, I wonder how successful it's been. Does LinkedIn make anyone's list of news outlets?
Justin Belmont
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Justin Belmont,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2014 | 10:15:02 PM
Re: Where do you get your news?
I'm really glad to see the Pew Research Center's findings. The Prose Media team uses a lot of different platforms for news, and Facebook and Twitter are definitely some of them. I'd be interested to see how many people check out the news via LinkedIn.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
4/2/2014 | 8:23:57 AM
Re: Where do you get your news?
I'm in the same boat.  I enjoy a couple different feed readers that grab content from multiple established sources.  I know that print media is dying but the infrastructure and knowhow for news gathering are still there so they are still good sources for news.  I don't click on any FB link because I've learned that quite often it's not something that a friend posted deliberately, typically they "like" a page and it starts posting for them.  I don't want sites doing the same for me.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
4/1/2014 | 1:10:19 PM
Re: Where do you get your news?
I get my news from a variety of sources: tablet-based magazines, the Sunday paper (yes the actual inky physical paper - i recently went back to it), and also LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. My Facebook news only occasionally comes from friends' likes and shares (though that definitely happens). But the majority comes from just following pubs like NYT and Wash Post on Facebook. I end up reading a lot of good stories just passing through Facebook. I like to balance that approach with the more structured experience of reading magaziness like BusinessWeek and Entertainment Weekly on my tablet. Whatever works for you.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
3/28/2014 | 8:21:11 AM
Re: Where do you get your news?
Definitely not getting my news from Facebook.  I very rarely read anything that is linked, mainly because I can usually guess what the article is about based on who is linking it and because I don't want to be tempted to wade into a fight on Facebook which I typically see after a controversial news story is linked.  I do think the way we get our news is changing and is much more dynamic than years past but I don't let my friends filter my news for me.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 9:17:30 PM
Where do you get your news?
#2 rings true for me -- I discover a lot of news on Facebook and Twitter, though I don't log on specifically for that. I'm curious about others' news habits -- are you getting more news from social sites?
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