Wake up, check your phone, get your news. More than half of all connected Americans now get their news on social media channels, whether it’s on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
A new study from the Pew Research Center “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016” shows that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all showed increases in the percentage of Americans who find news on their platforms. Results showed that about 66% of Facebook users found their news scrolling through their feeds, and about 60% of Twitter users found their news on their feeds. Reddit users also figured prominently, with up to every 7 of 10 Reddit users saying they got their news fix there.
As content publishers themselves, smart brand marketers are already using social feeds to share their original content. That makes it likely that brand news and publisher news are both getting noticed in the midst of the daily news feeds. Content marketers who push news into those social feeds are gaining interaction and engagement with users, especially when combined with sponsored ads and programmatic native advertising.
Struggle for News Publishers
But while users are getting news through their feeds, the door to news sites is getting closing to shutting. News publishers not yet making the digital shift to social feeds and online engagement are struggling to get viewers to their sites and get their news content seen.
Forbes writer Kalev Leetaru notes that many news sites, in order to protect their content in the face of shrinking ad revenues, have resorted to using less-than-reader-friendly page design to prop up their shops. News sites are throwing up obstacles like ad tracking tools, clumsy log-in procedures, ad-driven videos, large banner display ads and more to frustrate a news user at more, to a good news user experience. Plus, he adds, all the site obfuscations are slowing down the web, too.
News Views Plateau
About 144 million smartphone users in the US regularly access news and information through their mobile devices, according to a 2016 series from the Knight Foundation on how people use smartphones to access news and information. And because of this huge audience, plenty of news organizations in recent years have developed their own branded news apps (NY Times, WaPo, LA Times, Daily Mail, etc.).
Some of these sites have succeeded with both readers and advertisers. But these sites are up against news aggregators like FlipBoard and SmartNews (which I use on a daily basis) that bring tailored news direct to my device.
But the rise of social media and its ease of getting the day’s news is leading to flatter growth for mobile news apps, according to journalism watchdog Poynter. This suggests either a human burnout of news in general, or perhaps users are seeing the same news from a variety of sources, leading to news overkill. Or maybe it is pinned to the media-saturated presidential campaigns of 2016.
But the trend seems to be that most Americans are looking only (or mainly) to their social feeds for news and information, and rarely dig any deeper. Whether that’s a good thing for the republic remains to be seen. But for brand marketers who want a share of audience on social media, it could lead to a growth in positioning branded content as news content for a large slice of readers’ eyes.