Basically, we use data from the Reuters Institute Digital News survey to assess the relative importance of social media as sources of, ways of finding, and ways of engaging with news across eight developed democracies with, in a global perspective, high levels of internet use.
We show that television is still the most widely used and most important source of news, that the websites of legacy media are very important online, and that, though much of the population use social media like Facebook for social and other purposes, only a minority use these sites as ways of engaging in more participatory forms of news use, and that social networking sites are not generally considered particularly important sources of news, even by the younger cohorts.
Two key tables and full abstract below.
The role of social media in the news information cycle—an eight-country comparative analysis
By Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Kim Christian Schrøder
The increasingly widespread use of social media like Facebook and Twitter is in the process of changing how news is produced, shared, and discussed. Studies of individual events, processes, and sites have led researchers to suggest that we are moving from a traditional “news cycle” dominated by journalists and professional sources to a more complex “information cycle” that integrates ordinary people in the ongoing construction and contestation of news (Chadwick, 2011), that new “participatory cultures” increasingly complement existing consumer cultures (Jenkins et al 2006), and that the dichotomy between producers and users is being blurred by the rise of active “produsage” where social media users take the lead in content creation and dissemination (Bruns, 2007). But so far, we have had only a vague understanding of (a) how important social media are as sources of news and ways of finding news relative to other sources, (b) how widespread these new forms of more engaged news media use actually are, and (c) whether these developments are similar or different from country to country. Based on data from a cross-country online survey of news media use (the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2013), we present a comparative analysis of the role of social media in the news information cycle in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, covering a range of developed democracies with historically different media systems but generally high levels of internet use. We show that television remains both the most widely used and most important source of news in all these countries, and that the websites of legacy news media organizations like broadcasters and newspapers are generally the most important online sources of news. We identify a set of similarities in terms of the growing importance of social media as part of the cross-media news habits of especially younger generations, but also important country-to-country differences in terms of how widespread especially the more active and participatory forms of media use are. Surprisingly, these differences do not correspond in any simple way to differences in levels of internet use, suggesting that more than mere availability shapes the role of social media in the news information cycle.