News Consumption: From Independent to Incidental
Long gone are the days of independent discovery of news and information. Well, there’s a few holdouts that value getting a hard copy of the newspaper every morning or a monthly magazine in the mail. For many, though, that may be more ritual than truly efficient news consumption.
Most news discovery and consumption today comes from online sharing, and the latest research from the Pew Research Center demonstrates how much this trend is increasing:
A majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In 2012, based on a slightly different question, 49% of U.S. adults reported seeing news on social media.
According to the survey, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are the leading platforms in which people get news:
  • Facebook: Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site
  • Twitter: Nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter
  • Reddit: Seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform
Twitter is such a dominant news source that the company recently changed its category in the Apple store from “social networking” to “news”. It now stands as the number one free news app.
Most interesting in all of this is how much of news discovery is incidental vs. intentional. For Facebook users, news discovery is more incidental: 62% are coming across news while they are doing other things online. On Twitter, though, 54% of users are going to Twitter to purposely seek out news, rather than stumbling across it while looking at Kim Kardashian’s latest Tweet (which is actually news to some people).
So what does this mean to marketing and communications professionals? More and more people are getting their news from friends and colleagues than just one or two traditional news sources. And the news being shared spans from classic news content (New York Times articles, CNN videos) to Medium posts, colorful infographics and other long-tail content. And people trust their friends to share interesting or relevant content with them via these social networking vehicles.
This requires comms pros to expand their usual “PR” mindset of getting reams and reams of press coverage and thinking about a more diversified content-driven communications strategy. Yes, press coverage is still valuable. But knowing that your target audience is also stumbling across other types of “news” content online gives you an opportunity to insert yourself into that conversation. It’s an opportunity to have a valuable piece of content like survey data or an infographic that can get shared within the right network as much or more so than a Wall Street Journal article.
This is the type of communications strategy we’re working on for our clients every day. Read through some of our case studies to see how we’re breaking through the clutter with compelling and strategic content.