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Social media outperforms printed newspapers in the US as a news source


Social media sites have overtaken print newspapers as a news source for Americans, with one in five US adults reporting that they receive frequent news on social media, slightly higher than the proportion who receive it frequently from print newspapers (16%) first time since the Pew Research Center started asking these questions. In 2017, the proportion who received news on social media was roughly the same as the proportion who received news from printed newspapers.

Social media’s small lead over print came after years of steadily declining newspaper circulation and a modest increase in the proportion of Americans using social media, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center earlier this year.

Overall, television is still the most popular platform for news consumption – even if usage has declined since 2016. News websites are the second most common source, followed by radio and finally social media sites and print newspapers. And if you look at online news usage together – the percentage of Americans who often get news from either news websites or social media – the internet has supplanted television as a news source (43% of adults get news frequently from news websites or social media.). Media, compared with 49% for television).

Of the three different types of television news asked about, local television is the most popular – 37% get the news there frequently, compared to 30% who frequently receive cable TV news and 25% who frequently watch national evening news broadcasts.

For the first time, we also asked respondents if they received messages from a streaming device on their television – 9% of US adults said they do this frequently. There is large overlap between those who stream television news and those who receive the news on television – a majority of those who receive news frequently on television (73%) also report that they frequently receive news on the radio or cable television.

Television dominates as the news source for older AmericansNews diets differ dramatically for younger and older Americans. The long-remarkable age differences have now widened significantly, with the likelihood that 65-year-olds and older are five times more likely to receive television news than 18-29 year olds. A large majority of those aged 65 and over (81%) receive frequent television news, as does around two-thirds (65%) of those aged 50 to 64. Far fewer young Americans turn to the television news, however – only 16% of 18-29 year olds and 36% of 30-49 year olds get frequent TV news.

The age difference is almost as big with social media, but in the other direction: 18 to 29-year-olds receive messages there about four times as often as 65-year-olds and older.

The popularity of print only persists with the 65 year olds and older. In the oldest age group, around four in ten (39%) get the news there frequently, but no more than 18% in any other age group.

Online news websites are more popular among 30 to 49 year olds. About four in ten (42%) in this age group often get news from websites and news apps. About a quarter (27%) of 18-29 year olds get news from news websites, making them the second most popular news platform for this age group. For these youngest adults, social media is the most popular news platform – 36% get the news there frequently, topped by news websites, television (16%), radio (13%) and print (2%).

Younger Americans are also unique in that they don’t rely on a platform the way the majority of their elders rely on television. No more than half of 18 to 29 year olds and 30 to 49 year olds often receive news from a single news platform.

See also: Americans still prefer to watch the news – and mostly still on television

Elisa Shearer is a research fellow with a focus on journalism research at the Pew Research Center.


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