Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment, shall we? You wake up on a Sunday morning, let’s say 10 years ago. You slip on your coziest slippers, coffee in hand, and saunter out the front door en route to find the morning’s earliest delivery – the newspaper. For many, reading the newspaper was a morning staple, as essential a role in starting the day as brewing coffee. Jump forward to 2017, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone under the age of 50 who still has the paper delivered to their doorstep, let alone picks up the paper at all. While news itself has not changed over the last decade, the way we consume it has. And while the rise of the Internet no doubt left newspaper stands stacked high, now it’s social media that’s changing the game in a serious way.
According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 51% of online users are now getting their news from social media at least once a week. Social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are becoming increasingly popular ways to stay up to date on current affairs. And despite the fact that these sites don’t employ any reporters or anchormen, do not own any satellite trucks, and do not even report the news themselves, they’re none-the-less establishing themselves as power players in the news space.
The convenience is certainly a driving factor in social media news’ growing popularity. Users don’t have to thumb through websites to find information; they need only to open up their Facebook or Twitter accounts to have news delivered directly to them, instantly. Should they stumble upon a story that sparks interest, the entire article is only a click away.
Those using social media as a news source tend to be more passive in their online news habits. Many Facebook users enjoy the news coming to them on their feeds, rather than actively seeking out a specific story or topic. So it makes sense that social media users are more likely to get their news by chance. It’s an effective tool to find out what’s going on in the world, without actually looking for anything specific.
What does this trend toward finding and consuming news through social networks mean for publishers? It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, many news sources, like the Washington Post, are finding ways to work with these networks. For example, Facebook’s Instant Articles hosts publishers’ content within Facebook. Working together, these industries have an opportunity to tell better stories that engage audiences like never before.