Annika Bergström and Maria Jervelycke Belfrage of the University of Gothenburg, examined young people’s news-gathering on social media in Sweden, using a combination of representative survey data (respondents aged 16 to 25) and qualitative interviews with 44 people aged 16 to 19.
According to the survey conducted in 2015, 91% of respondents read news via social media. 44% were daily readers. The main factor explaining use of news on social media platforms is the habit of using online news services. Interest in news and younger age also contributed to more news use, the authors found.
Source and topic are both important reasons for picking up a news item. The young adults studied clearly identified opinion leaders when it comes to news distribution. They see opinion leaders as a prerequisite for their keeping up with news, the researchers write. Friends’ sharing is of greater importance than the news disseminated by the media outlets.
Interviewees’ news use using social networks was frequent. Even though the use was often incidental (more than half of the interviewees), the young reported counting on this medium on keeping them updated. This was the case, even if the respondents themselves didn’t actively follow news.
“It is also clear that the news shared in young persons’ feeds serves to widen their scope of information, in that they unintentionally come across news items they would have missed out on, had it been relegated to traditional platforms”, the article explains.
The article “News in Social Media: Incidental consumption and the role of opinion leaders” was published in Digital Journalism and is available online (free abstract).
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