The Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report indicates that social media is now responsible for nine percent of all traffic into news web sites, an increase of some 57 percent over the course of two years.
With Facebook’s meteoric expansion since 2008 and the percentage of U.S. adults using Twitter increasing to 13 percent, up from eight percent in 2001, as well as the increasing ease with which users can share news on these social media networks, it should perhaps come as no surprise that a larger contingent of readers find themselves on news sites through links posted by friends and ‘followees’. Just last year, Facebook improved to 133 million users in the United States, up from 117 million the year before.
While social media is not yet an overwhelming driver of news, the fact that it now makes up nine percent of news sites’ traffic sources is no small feat. According to Pew, social media is now almost half as powerful as search engines as a traffic source for news sites. Some news organizations, such as the Huffington Post — which has focused heavily on social media in recent years — now generate as much traffic from social media as from search engines.
Trending Topic: Digital Migration
Whether by laptop or smart phone or tablet, news consumers continued their shift to digital media in 2011, with Nielson Online reporting a 17% increase in the unique viewers on the top 25 news sites. This growth almost precisely mirrors that of 2009-10.
As illustrated in the diagram below, online media’s audience expansion continues to blow other forms of media out of the water, while the print industry’s readership continues its decline.
This isn’t to say that newspapers and other traditional outlets need to panic completely. Of the 25 news sites boasting the most traffic online, Nielson reports that 17 are legacy news outlets.
This implies that traditional news organizations still carry a large amount of trust and visibility with their brands, even if the transition to the digital world has been painful for many of them.
Pew reports that over 75% of U.S. adults own a laptop or desktop computer, 44% own a smartphone and tablet ownership has skyrocketed from 11% in the summer of 2011 to 18% today.
This is it. America has gone digital.
And news organizations are benefitting, if only in the viewing department. Pew reports that over half of tablet and smartphone owners use their devices to get the news, and PEJ research finds that “nearly a quart of the population, 23%, now gets news on multiple digital devises.”
Follow the Money
Online news, cable TV and audio have all experienced a rise in revenue in 2011, with online enjoying a meteoric 23 percent jump. Not surprisingly, print publications and local and network TV have all taken hits in the revenue department.
This continues the ongoing trend of both money and consumers pulling away from traditional news venues and sliding towards new media forums.
If a Pew Internet study on how different generations found out about the viral Kony 2012 video campaign is any indicator, there is a generational shift at play as well.
An impressive contingent of Americans aged 18-29 first heard about Kony through the internet (36 percent), with two-thirds of this group (27 percent of the age group) finding out through social media. Only ten percent of those aged 18-29 found about the video through traditional media, with seven percent having viewed it on television.
Conversely, only 12 percent of those aged 5-64 heard about Kony on the internet, and five percent through social media. Traditional media played a larger role for this age group, however, with 29 percent hearing about it through traditional means — 22 percent through television.
As the Millennial generation continues its ascent into the working world, and as Generation X continues to establish itself monetarily, news organizations will find themselves placing a much heavier focus on new media — specifically social media — practices.