Pew: Twitter And Facebook Users Being Exposed To More News

Pew: Twitter And Facebook Users Being Exposed To More News

U.S. users of Twitter and Facebook are increasingly getting external news via the two services, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

“The share of Americans for whom Twitter and Facebook serve as a source of news is continuing to rise. This rise comes primarily from more current users encountering news there rather than large increases in the user base overall,” the report notes.

The researchers report substantial growth in the proportion of adult web users saying each platform serves as a source for news about “events and issues outside of friends and family” — with 63 per cent of Facebook users and the same proportion of Twitter users now saying that, up from a majority (52 per cent) of Twitter users and 47 per cent of Facebook users back in 2013.

Pew’s data shows this behavioral increase cutting across almost all demographic groups — including users under 35 (growing from 55% to 67%), and those 35 and older (rising from 47% to 59%). While on Facebook, news use grew among both men (44% to 61%) and women (49% to 65%) over the two years. Younger users remain more likely to get their news via Facebook than Twitter, according to the study.

Both tech platforms prefer to couch themselves as content distribution platforms, rather than content publishers — typically denying they have a role in editorially shaping what their users see, despite making what some might term ‘editorial judgements’ to, for instance, remove certain types of content from their platforms. Add to that, their algorithms continually make judgements to curate or personalize the content their users see.

What’s clear is that as social media’s role in the distribution and sourcing of news becomes more dominant, and the role of tech algorithms in foregrounding and disseminating certain content/content types (and vice versa) becomes more apparent, questions about how digital platforms are influencing public opinion will continue to grow.

“As social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features. These different ways of connecting with news have implications for how Americans learn about the world and their communities, and for how they take part in the democratic process,” notes Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center’s director of journalism research, in a statement.

Facebook also recently launched a program to natively host publishers’ content — called Facebook Instant Articles — with the aim of reducing article load times in the hopes of keeping users sticking around on its platform for longer. Partnering with media firms directly positions Facebook even closer to the already rather fuzzy dividing-line between ‘publisher’ and ‘platform’.

As you might expect, Pew’s study also highlights some significant differences in news distribution strengths between Facebook and Twitter, with Twitter — unsurprisingly, given its sharpening focus on live events — being used far more by people wanting to follow breaking news vs Facebook (59 per cent vs 31 per cent).

The researchers also found that different habits and topics are more suited to different platforms — such as people on Twitter being more likely to follow news organizations, reporters or commentators (46% vs 28%); while Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to news content about government and politics:

About a third (32%) of Facebook users say they post about government and politics on Facebook and 28% comment on these types of posts. In comparison, 25% of Twitter users tweet about this news topic and 13% reply to tweets on this topic posted by others.

The study also found four topics were seen at a higher rate on Twitter vs Facebook — namely: national government and politics (72% vs. 61%); international affairs (63% vs. 51%); business (55% vs. 42%); and sports (70% vs. 55%).

The notion that Facebook users are sitting within a personalized filter bubble has been long discussed — culminating, in a notable instance last summer, in users pointing out the stark contrast in what they saw on their Facebook vs Twitter feeds during the Ferguson protests.

Pew’s results appear to bear out that Twitter news users are more likely to be regularly exposed to news posts across a more diverse range of topics than those sourcing news via Facebook:

Pew

The researchers note some gender differences in news consumption habits on the two platforms too. On Facebook, Pew found women are more likely to regularly see posts about health, entertainment, and people and events in your community; while posts about weather, entertainment, crime, and health are more commonly seen by women on Twitter.

When it comes to news users of the platforms commenting on news, the proportion across both platforms was about the roughly same, according to Pew — with around a quarter of both Facebook (28%) and Twitter (23%) news users at least sometimes posting or tweeting about news.

The study is based on a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, including 331 Twitter users and 1,315 Facebook users — a proportion which Pew notes reflects the representative differences in the number of Americans who use each platform.

Snapchat Redesign Moves “Discover” To Top Of Stories Tab

Snapchat Redesign Moves “Discover” To Top Of Stories Tab

Snapchat just released a new update featuring a redesigned Story tab. The main change is that media brands featured in the Discover section (which previously required another tap or swipe to navigate to) are now displayed prominently at the top of the Stories list. Live stories (Snapchat curated stories from different live events) are also now at the top of the list.

This change will certaintly bring more views to the Discover section (and their interstitial advertisements), as users will no longer have to navigate to a separate page to view media partners’ stories. Notably, the move also now prioritizes content generated by media partners above content made by a user’s own friends.

While Snapchat hasn’t released numbers on how Discover is doing, this move is presumably a serious attempt to bring the feature more views. Considering it generates revenue for Snapchat, which is still getting its sea legs in the world of money-making, it’s relatively important that Discover performs well and continues to grow in viewership.

Launched about six months ago, Discover is a part of Snapchat that lets users see original content from more than 10 media outlets including ESPN, CNN, and Vice. Each of these companies provide content ranging from full-screen photos and videos to long form written stories.

When asked to comment on the new changes, Snapchat gave the following statement:

Discover is a platform for publishers to tell great stories. Since we launched, we have been experimenting and learning what content works well. We’re very excited about where we are today and making Discover accessible on our Stories page feels like a natural fit. – Snapchat Spokeswoman 

Likes Aren’t Enough. Now Facebook Pages Need You To Add Them To “See First”

Likes Aren’t Enough. Now Facebook Pages Need You To Add Them To “See First”

Facebook told businesses to buy Page Likes for years, saying that’s how they could reach people through the News Feed. But over time, a natural increase in competition for space in the feed plus increased restrictions on promotional and marketing posts have eroded the reach of Pages, and subsequently some of the value of Page Likes.

See FirstNow Facebook has created an echelon above Likes. A new bar for Pages to push for if they want an intimate/lucrative relationship with people who care about them. It’s called “See First”. Starting in the U.S., users can now go to Pages, friends, or public figures’ profiles and add them to their See First list that’s managed in the revamped News Feed Preferences. Getting added to that list guarantees all their posts will appear at the top of a user’s News Feed with a blue star.

Compare that to the small, dwindling fraction of a Page’s fans who Like them that see each of their posts, and you’ll understand why I call See First the new Holy Grail for social marketers. If they can get added, they’ll benefit from not only their mot popular posts reaching someone, but anything they post…including overt marketing or sales messages that Facebook tends to hide in the News Feed. It’s these posts that actually sell things or drive traffic away from Facebook that earn marketers the most.

The feature could let Facebook users tailor their feeds to very specific purposes rather than a mix of everyone they’ve friended or followed. For example, setting a few blogs and newspapers as See First will basically turn the top of your feed into a news reader. Add fashion brands or ecommerce platforms and it becomes a shopping discovery site. Select athletic teams and players and it becomes your sports page.

Greg Marra, the Facebook product manager in charge of See First downplayed the impact of See First on marketers, saying “I don’t think the impact is going to be very large.” But I’m not totally convinced. Facebook knows the feed is a shaky boat, and rocking it scares marketers, so it’s sensible for it to downplay the influence of new features.

facebook-news-feed-edgerank-algorithm

Think of it this way. If people use See First, they’ll probably only add a few of their very favorite Pages. Think premier brands and public figures like Red Bull, Katy Perry, Converse, Cristiano Ronaldo, The Walking Dead, or The New York Times. They’ll enjoy a big boost in reach at the expense of all the other Pages someone’s Liked. For mid-quality Pages that don’t get added to See First, the feature could push their posts even further down the feed.

But it’s the Pages that paid for their Likes that might get hurt the most. Many bought ads to gain Likes, assuming the reach those connections provided would stay constant. Some might not have fully understood that the News Feed would only display posts to more people if they were popular amongst those initially shown them. Or that if someone repeatedly skips over their posts without clicking or Liking when they do see them, that person is less likely to see that Page’s posts in the future.

Essentially, a Like only benefits Pages if they’re publishing content people enjoy, and the likelihood that people enjoy their content is much lower if they had to secure their Like with ads rather than someone seeking them out organically. See First exacerbates this natural selection. Someone who didn’t really love a brand in the first place but Liked it from an ad probably isn’t going to See First them.

img_0909

As I wrote this morning “Facebook never really apologized for charging businesses for something that became less valuable with time.” Instead, it’s only further squelching the value of a Like by introducing See First.

The feature is almost inarguably good for users, and therefore for Facebook itself and the league of marketers as a whole. If the feed is full of boring stuff people don’t want to see, they have a poor experience, won’t come back, and then there’s no reach for anyone. I’m not saying Facebook shouldn’t have launched See First.

Feed Preferences

But marketers who thought the Like was the destination are going to have to face the tough reality of the feed economy’s ongoing journey. Those who thought they just had to publish good content may find they need clever new ways to convince users to add them to See First. And marketers who paid for Page Likes might be more skeptical next time Facebook asks them to pay for something.

Facebook is all about putting the user first. But letting them choose what they See First could make the time it takes for some marketers to recoup what they paid for Likes last even longer.