10% of digital news consumers say ‘Facebook’ is a news outlet

Ten percent of digital news readers say their news came from Facebook.
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People are reading news online, but they don’t always remember where the news came from unless it was on Facebook.

Digital news readers between 18 and 29 years old remembered what news organization the stories they read came from 47 percent of the time. Thirty- to 49-year-olds remembered where their news came from more often 57 percent of the time. Both groups and other age demographics read news online at about the same rate.

That’s not even compared to how much print news consumers remember about the stories they read or their sources. A 2014 study from the University of Houston found that print readers retained a lot more of what they read. Print readers could recall 4.24 stories compared to the 3.35 stories digital readers remembered after 20 minutes of catching up on the news.

The Pew Research Center in its new study surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults who read at least some news online every week. Twice a day over a week during February and March 2016, survey respondents told Pew whether they had read any news online in the past two hours and how they responded afterward.

When they read an article through an email or push notification from a news organization itself, consumers could remember where the article came from. But if they saw the article on Twitter or Facebook or even in an email or text from a friend, readers were less likely to remember which news organization published an article.

Ten percent of digital news consumers named Facebook as the “news outlet” that an article came from. Of actual news sources, CNN was remembered by the most online readers 14 percent of them. Next came Fox News at 12 percent. The New York Times, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, Yahoo, ESPN, the Washington Post and CBS were all named by 3 to 6 percent of readers.

While getting news from friends meant readers would be less likely to remember which publication produced a story, that method of consumption did mean that readers would be more likely to engage with an article. Readers followed up on a story by sharing it, talking about it with others or looking for more information about a topic 73 percent of the time when it came from a friend, versus 49 percent of the time when the story came from a news site or app.

Readers “followed up” most often about local, community news and health news so yep, your mom really is emailing a lot of articles from the New York Times “Well” section and least often about business, sports and entertainment news. Politics news landed right in the middle, with readers sharing or talking about a story 56 percent of the time even if they read more politics news than news about any other topic.

The unique approach used in this research provides a deeper and more tangible window into how Americans learn about current events in the digital age, and speaks to some of the challenges news organizations have in establishing a relationship with digital audiences, Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center director of journalism research, said in a press release.

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