Did you come to know of Apple’s Chief Steve Job’s sad demise through a friend’s status update on Facebook or was it a tweet? Was it the next morning’s New York Times or was it prime time news on Television? If we were to conduct a poll based on the questions, it is quite likely that the social media platforms would dominate the answers. So, is it really happening? Has social media bigwigs, like Facebook and twitter, become the hotspots for online news or news in general? A look at the following figures would help you judge better.
With its reported 133 million active users in the U.S. alone at the end of 2011 and the amount of time these users spend on the site (an average of 423 minutes per user in December 2011) Facebook is way ahead of the top 25 news sites on the internet. Also with the introduction of features such as the Social Reader Facebook has given its users more options to explore as well as share news with their friends/contacts without leaving the site.
A new survey by State of the News Media reports that Facebook and Twitter might have become new ways to explore news but they have in no way overtaken the traditional methods of news consumption. The report also reveals that users who consume news through these social media platforms also consume news by directly going to the news websites, through apps or through keyword searches about the news in question. Also the number of people who arrive at traditional news websites through Facebook are far more in number when compared to the next best gateway to social news – Twitter.
This effectively means that only Facebook- with its massive user base- is currently able to diverge some portions of its active users towards news, and these portions generally are the tech savvy lot, not the everyday users of the popular social network.
In another study by Amy Mitchell & Tom Rosenstiel of PEJ, and Leah Christian of the Pew Research Center news consumption through mobile devices has increased significantly in the U.S. and this stands true for both smartphones and tablets. The findings claim that despite the great population explosion on social networks, social media is not the most popular place for news consumption, and let’s face it, most of us log onto social networks to collaborate and communicate with our friends and families and not really to tell each other how the stock market fluctuations could affect our businesses.
So perhaps social media hasn’t yet reached its full potential in terms of news delivery to the millions of socially active online users, but the geniuses that they are, Mark Zuckerberg and his team should be expected to tap the market potential that online delivery of news has, and then rake in the moolah that will follow.