In today’s digital environment, there are multiple consumer pathways to access digital news. Online news consumers are almost equally as likely to get their news directly from a news website (36%) as they are from postings on social media (35%) reports Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in their study, “How Americans encounter, recall and act upon digital news.”
Online consumers are aware of the news sources they consume. In fact, over half of respondents (56%) could provide a name of the digital news source if the followed a link to the story. The links come from social media; news organizations’ emails, texts and alerts; or the emails and texts of friends or family.
Path to content
The report also identifies the pathways online news consumers use for specific content categories. Business and finance news, for example, are 53% more likely to be accessed directly on a news website than social media (12%). Entertainment news, in contrast, is more likely to be found on social media (53%) than on a news website (25%).
Consistent with previous findings, about half of both 18 to 29-year-olds (47%) and 30 to 49-year-old (42%) online news consumers received their news through social media as compared with less than of quarter of older adults (23%). Interestingly, women who consume news online (39%) obtain news through social media slightly more often than male online news consumers (30%). In contrast, more males who consumer news online (43%) go directly to websites than women who consume news online (29%). When 18 to 29-year-old online news consumers click on news links, they remember the source about half the time (47%) compared to 30 to 49-year-olds and 50 and older (57% and 61%, respectively).
In terms of naming their news sources, CNN was recalled by 14% of those who followed links, Fox News 12% and Facebook 10%. Important to note, Facebook is not a publisher, it only distributes news, it does not produce content. The New York Times, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, Yahoo, ESPN, The Washington Post and CBS were reported between 3% to 6%.
Online consumers seek out the news online about 40% of the time, compared to 24% of the time when online news consumers come across news story while already getting news about something else.
Follow-up, recall and call to action
Online news consumers are just as likely to follow up (58%) on news content they consume as often as they do not (42%). In terms of follow up actions, speaking with someone in person or over the phone is the most common action to take (30%) searching for more information (16%) and posting on social media (10%).
The study also found that news that comes directly from a news site tends to be recalled more often but is less likely to bring about any action such as discussing, sharing or commenting. In contrast, news that comes through a personal connection, an email and text from friends or family, is most likely to bring about a follow-up action.
Additionally, the follow-up actions taken tend to remain within the landscape in which the online news originated. In other words, news found on social media is more likely to then be shared on social media sites, while news that comes through search engines is more likely to lead to additional searches.
Today’s online news environment faces many challenges. It’s important for digital publishers to identify and understand the different digital news habits, especially since consumer attention is splintered across multiple news sources and platforms. Publishers can now align their strategies, to strengthen brand equity, build engagement and encourage social action, by identifying the best pathway to showcase their online news coverage.