Nearly half of Americans can’t remember where they got their news when they saw it online — and one in 10 people named Facebook as a news outlet when asked the name of the source of the story read online, according to a Pew study released earlier this week.
(But remember: Facebook doesn’t want you to think it’s a media company.)
As the way people consume news continues to move more and more online, this latest data shows just how difficult it is for readers to determine where the information they encounter is coming from. Not to mention how hard it is to know if the news they read is even reliable.
Pew surveyed more than 2,000 adults in February of last year to learn more about how Americans intersect and engage with news online. Respondents were asked about news they encountered within the past two hours before being surveyed.
The most common ways for people to get online news are from a direct visit to the website of the news outlet (homepages matter!) and social media posts, at 36 percent and 35 percent respectively. People are more likely to use a search engine to find news (20 percent) than open an email from a news outlet (15 percent), Pew found.
When respondents were asked to recall the name of the news outlet they read from, they were able to provide the name 56 percent of the time. But if the news was first encountered on social media, they were far less likely to know than if the story came directly from the publisher.
That makes sense, considering news found on social media has a lot of layers to peel back. After all, an article may be shared by a friend, by way of a news organization that’s reposting from another publication, on a social media platform, with commentary at the top and bottom of the link.
When it comes to engaging with the news — sharing it, deliberating it, learning more about the topic — respondents were far more likely to do so if it came from an email or text from friends or family or if they found the news themselves from a search engine. When the news came from a news outlet directly or was found on social media, the likelihood of engagement went down.
And when it came to the topic of news that was most likely to catalyze a follow-up action, community affairs and health news were the most engaging. News about community affairs was also the most likely to be shared on social media, according to Pew’s analysis. In short, people are more likely to engage with news shared by people they trust on topics that are locally relevant to their lives.