How do you find out what’s going on?
I have a pretty good idea how you do so with respect to your family and friends and business colleagues. That would be via social networks and email or maybe even (Lord help us) a good old-fashioned phone call or (gasp) face to face encounter. IRL – what a concept (“in real life” for the less digitally inclined among us). But what about finding out about the news? How do most people do that these days? Is it 24/7 news channels? Newspapers or their websites? Local TV and their digital presences?
As it turns out, it’s pretty much the same way we get the “other” news. According to the good folks over at the Pew Research Journalism Project three in ten adults get at least some news while on Facebook. Not that they’re actually looking since 78% of Facebook news users mostly see news when on Facebook for other reasons. The Pew folks aren’t picking on Facebook but since Facebook reaches far more Americans than any other social media site it therefore allows for the most in-depth study.
Just 34% of Facebook news consumers “like” a news organization or individual journalist, which suggests that the news they see there is coming from friends – the same friends likely sending them posts about everything else. Entertainment news tops the list of topics Facebook news consumers report seeing and is, unfortunately, indicative of our focus these days. This is followed by ‘people and events in my community’, sports, national government and politics, crime, health and medicine, and local government and politics. Even international news reaches roughly one in four Facebook news consumers.
Not only are social network users sharing news stories, but, particularly with the growth in mobile devices, a certain portion is contributing to the reporting by taking photos or videos. In fact, the study showed that on Twitter, groups of people come together around news events they feel passionately about. But opinions expressed on Twitter often differ from broad public opinion. That’s not a shock given that Twitter’s user base is not really representative of the public as a whole. Finally, in honor of “whatever”, visitors who come to a news site through Facebook or search display have far lower engagement with that outlet than those who come to that news website directly.
How do you find out what’s going on? Turns out that it finds you for the most part. But given the source – your chums who may be finding it out from a friend of a friend, it’s more incumbent than ever that we do a little more due diligence. After all, taking anything as gospel – even what you read here – in an age when there are no barriers to the great digital megaphone is shortsighted. If you really want to know, go find out!