The most rapidly growing news source for Americans is social media, according to the latest annual Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report. In fact, this year for the first time a majority (51%) of Americans surveyed reported using social media as a source of news during the prior week.
This year’s tally is almost double the share using social for news as recently as 2013 (27%).
Worth noting is that social media is part of the overall news media mix, though: two-thirds of social media news users in the US also get news from the TV, and two-thirds likewise also visit mainstream websites or apps for news. Just 2% use social media exclusively for news in a typical week.
Even so, social media is emerging as the main source of news for many youth around the world. Across the 36 markets, fully one-third of 18-24-year-old news consumers reported that social media is their main source of news, which is more than TV (24%) and print newspapers (5%) combined.
Digital media (online news sites and social media), meanwhile, are the main sources of news for a majority of respondents under the age of 45.
Social As News Source Declines in Some Markets
While it has been a steady upward trajectory in social media news consumption in the US, the same can’t be said for some other key markets. For example, weekly use of news dropped by a couple of percentage points in Spain (to 58%) and France (to 38%), with bigger declines seen in Brazil (-6 points to 66%), Australia (-6 points, to 46%), Italy (-5 points to 38%) and Portugal (-4 points, to 62%).
Messaging Apps on the Rise
While messaging apps aren’t as popular for news as social media platforms, they are becoming more influential players.
This year almost one-quarter (23%) of respondents overall report finding, sharing or discussing news using a messaging app. The leading app for news is WhatsApp, used by 15% of respondents in the week prior to the survey, followed by Facebook Messenger, used by about half as many (8%).
Those averages mask some considerable differences across countries. For example, an impressive 51% of respondents in Malaysia said they use WhatsApp for news purposes in a typical week, with Brazil (46%) not far behind.
By contrast, just 3% in the US use WhatsApp for the news. That’s consistent with other research indicating that while social media plays a sizable role in digital media consumption in the US, messaging is a fractional player relative to other markets.
The full report – which contains many more findings about digital news consumption and trust – can be found here.
About the Data: The report is based on a survey of more than 70,000 news consumers in 36 markets, with a minimum of 2,000 respondents per market with the exception of Taiwan (1,017).