Social media users engage with more news sources per week than non-users do, write Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, both of University of Oxford. The authors analysed survey data from Italy, Australia, United Kingdom and United States, gathered originally for the 2015 Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report.
The respondents were divided into three groups according to their social media use: those who use social media for news, those who use social media for other purposes (called the “incidentally exposed” by the authors), and those who do not use social media at all. Then the non-users and non-news users were compared in terms of how many news sources they use.
Across the data, the incidentally exposed used, on average, more news sources than those who do not use social media at all. As one might expect, those who use social media specifically for news had the highest news source counts.
The results demonstrate that social media does expose users to more news sources, the authors conclude. However, the effect’s strength varies across user groups: young people and those less interested in news benefit more from social media use. Similarly, using Twitter and YouTube appears to increase news source variety more than Facebook use does. Interestingly, the authors found no dramatic differences in effects between the countries.
The article “Are people incidentally exposed to news on social media?” was published by the journal New Media & Society. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Untitled by Karolina Grabowska, licence CC0 1.0.