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13 November 2014

The New Generation Keeps up With News Through Social Media

Keywords: Websites, internet, media, North America, computer, mobile, mobile phone, news consumption, print, reading, social media, survey, young adults,

Traditional news sources, such as newspapers and television newscasts, are not that popular among young people. According to a study in Electronic News, young adults (18-21 y/o) do keep up with news, however, they prefer to be informed through social media instead of traditional news sources. They are particularly interested in Twitter or Facebook news updates from friends, journalists or interesting people they heard of. Interestingly, they still rely on other internet sources to confirm the information received through social media.

Take aways

  • Young adults (18-21 y/o) primarily consume news through social media, as it is often the place where they first hear about news. 
  • They are especially interested in receiving information from personal Twitter or Facebook feeds, such as journalists or friends they know, instead of feeds of news organizations. 
  • When news stories are received through social media, young adults use other online sources for confirmation. 
  • These results are especially interesting for news organizations who want to attract and reach young news consumers. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What are the news consumption habits of young adults? 

  • Who?

    417 students aged 18-21 from three different universities (74% were women; 66% were Caucasian, 14% Latino, 12% African American, and 4% had different ethnic backgrounds)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    Initially, students were asked to indicate what communication technologies they own and use (e.g., tablets, laptops, smart phones). They were also asked whether they use traditional legacy media (e.g., hard copy of local paper, local news broadcast, nationals news broadcast), new legacy media (e.g., websites of local and national papers, websites of local/national broadcast outlets), new online media (e.g., blogs, Huffinton post) or social media (e.g., Twitter or Facebook feeds of news organizations or of individuals). 

Facts and findings

  • More than half (53%) of the students first heard about news stories through social media, followed by face-to-face information from friends (20%), and television/radio broadcasts (8%). 
  • Nearly half (48%) of the students who first heard of news through social media searched for confirmation of this information through other websites. 
  • The most popular news items to share were events (55%), news of disasters/accidents (14%) or business news (11%). 
  • Social media use was not related to student’s news sharing (amount of news items shared with others via social media).
  • Ownership of wireless technology (e.g., smart phone, tablet, laptop) was not related to student’s news consumption. 
  • Interesting fact: Students preferred to receive their news through Twitter or Facebook feeds from individuals rather than from news organizations. 
  • Critical note: since most (74%) of the respondents in this study were girls and all college students, the results might not be representative for all young adults.