World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Facebook: The incidental news platform?

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Facebook: The incidental news platform?

Of the 47 percent of adult Facebook users who do read news on the site (which equals about 30 percent of the US adult population), 78 percent say they get news on Facebook whilst they are there "for other reasons," and only 4 percent say that it is "the most important way they get news."

However, the report indicates that Facebook provides news to some people who may not get it otherwise. Forty-seven percent of those who "follow news less often" say it is an important means of getting news, 9 percent more than those who follow news regularly through other platforms.

Moreover, the more one uses Facebook per day, the more one is likely to get news there. Sixty-seven percent of those who spend more than an hour a day on Facebook get news from the site, compared to 41 percent of those who use Facebook for less than an hour a day. And of those who spend more time on Facebook, 57 percent say it is an important way that they get news, compared with 36 percent of those who are on the site for less than an hour each day.

The survey highlights the importance of Facebook for young and mobile audiences, which are, as NiemanLab's Justin Ellis points out "two audience segments the news industry could use some help with." Eighteen- to 29-year-olds, an age group who are generally less engaged with news than older generations, constitute 34 percent of Facebook news consumers, far more than the 20 percent of that demographic who do not get news on the site.

The report shows that using Facebook as a news platform does not have a huge impact on the amount of time people access news through other mediums, with 42 percent of Facebook news users still watching the news on TV, as do 46 percent of all adults in the USA. However, the number of Facebook news readers who read print journals is 6 percent less than the 27 percent of the overall population who do.

As the report indicates, "it may be the very incidental nature of the site that ultimately exposes more people to news there." Although these statistics make it seem unlikely that Facebook will become a go-to site for finding out news – particularly breaking news, only 28 percent of users have said they have ever turned to the site to discover events as they happen – it is clearly bringing news to people, particularly those who are not necessarily looking for it. As one respondent said: "If it wasn’t for Facebook news I’d probably never really know what’s going on in the world because I don’t have time to keep up with news on a bunch of different locations."

This incidental news consumption makes Facebook it a tricky landscape to navigate for news organisations. As PaidContent's Mathew Ingram suggests, these findings "reinforce[s] the idea that news content has to be designed and implemented to be as shareable as possible, or hardly anyone is going to see it."

However those who do engage with news on Facebook really go for it, it seems.

About a third of Facebook news consumers engage directly with the news they consume; 34 percent "like" a journalist or journal page and therefore have their information in their news feed. This group are also nearly three times more likely to often click on news links, to discuss issues in the news with others on Facebook, and are twice as likely to often post or share stories and "like" or comment on stories.

It is the ease with which people can and do share news stories that makes accidentally tripping over news stories so possible on Facebook. Although it is a difficult arena to get any sort of control over, the report shows that having an active Facebook presence will increase chances of user engagement with a news outlet, which in turn will increase chances of news being accessed incidentally.


Savannah Whaley


2013-10-25 13:21

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

Footer Navigation