OMG, do Americans really Rely on Facebook for their News?

Are you reliant on social media for much of your news?

Several of my friends are. One of them Facebooks with her 600+ online friends whenever a group of us ride share to book club. While most of us are discussing current events or that month’s book, she is busy responding to the latest on social media.

It’s pretty shocking to think someone would consider Facebook a source of reliable journalism. What about all the fake news, not to mention ghoulish content? The announcement last week that Facebook is hiring 3,000 editorial workers to remove the “hand grenades” from its news feed comes as no surprise. Lately, many of Facebook’s and especially YouTube’s prized advertisers have ended up next to a macabre live killing or streaming suicide. The New York Times reports that several of those advertisers are opting out.

Still, the ranks of those using social media as a main news source appear to be growing. Several bloggers have cited a Pew Research report that says  44% of Americans rely on social media as their main source of news. Can it be true?

Will Oremus, Slate’s senior technology writer, wrote a post a few months ago that delved deeper into the Facebook news reader numbers. He says that several high profile bloggers including Vice News were citing that same Pew Research report, claiming 44% of Americans use Facebook as their main source of news.

That figure is bogus and taken out of context, Oremus points out. The actual figure is 18%, he says, citing the Pew Research in question:

“The report, published May 26, 2016, is titled, “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016.” It leads with the finding that 62 percent of Americans get news from social media, while the Facebook-specific 44 percent number appears a few paragraphs in. But you don’t have to read past the first sentence to see that there’s a crucial qualifier to this finding. The report begins, ‘A majority of U.S. adults—62%—get news on social media, and 18% do so often … ‘ That’s right: 18 percent.”

Thank you, Mr. Oremus. Context is crucial here. So fewer than 20 percent of Americans rely on Facebook or any other social media for regular news updates. Once again, facts taken out of context lead to misrepresentations.

  • I’m thankful to Mr. Oremus for pointing out that Pew’s research was being misinterpreted by many.
  • I’m grateful Facebook is serious about cleaning up their content by hiring more editorial staff.
  • I appreciate that not everyone has time to read a daily newspaper, online or not, but still… Facebook?

If you could see my book club friend, M_______’s constantly growing Facebook, you’d know she spends hours per week sharing and commenting on the ‘news’ she finds there.

I don’t recall Facebook or Google ever winning a Pulitzer, do you? It’s going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out. People in marketing know we’re in the midst of a watershed moment, with news readers and more importantly, ad dollars, both going to and leaving Facebook and YouTube in unprecedented numbers.

Please let me know if you rely on social media for your news, and why. I want to write another blog post from your point of view.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *