Which Social Media Works Best for News?

January 30, 2014 • Digital News, Research • by

A study from Journalism Practice looks at how effective social media is in reaching audiences for news. It compares Facebook and Twitter and suggests that Twitter might just have the advantage. Researchers believe this is the case because Twitter is primarily used for reading and posting tweets, while Facebook has many additional functions. “In other words, Facebook is a social network while Twitter is more of social media—more news-orientated, or more ‘newsful.’ ”

Researchers Ju, Joeng, and Chyi were interested in several different questions: “How many major U.S. newspapers are using Facebook and Twitter to reach social media users?” and “Which social media platform—Facebook or Twitter—is more effective in attaining subscribers?”

The researchers collected data from February 2009 to March 13, 2012. The size of the audience on Facebook was measured by the number of subscribers receiving news feeds from the newspaper, while on Twitter it was measured by the number of followers the newspaper had. Sixty-four newspapers were used in the study and of that number, 49 found more success on Twitter, while 15 reached more viewers on Facebook. From this, the authors conclude that Twitter is more effective than Facebook from the size of the audience reached.

The researchers in this study found that each of the daily papers with a circulation greater than 100,000 are using Facebook and/or Twitter. Each of the newspapers surveyed used both Facebook and Twitter to reach their social media audience.

It is important to note that the information documented by these researchers does not take into account retweets, discussions, further sharing, or stale accounts.

From the Web experiments of the mid-1990s to the social media experiments of today, newspapers have tried to keep pace with changing technology. This has resulted in newspapers investing in media specialists to cultivate social media audiences and drive viewers to newspaper websites and social media. Once a subscriber has chosen to follow or like a newspaper on social media, the flow of materials from the newspaper to the consumer can begin. For newspapers, the ultimate goal of Facebook and Twitter is to drive readers to the Web edition.

The researchers believe that newspapers still have major challenges ahead, their business plan being the largest challenge. The researchers conclude that newspapers must still find an economic model that involves more than just seeking “eyeballs” on the page, but has a solid social media strategy.

The Stats

Twitter currently has more than 230 million monthly active users—with 77 percent of its users being outside the U.S.—according to Pew Research Center (Statistics current as of November, 2013). On average, 500 million Tweets are being sent each day.

Facebook, on the other hand, is the world’s largest social network site with more than 1 billion monthly users (statistics current as of January, 2014), according to Pew Research Center. The use of the Like and Share button exceed 22 billion times per day, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (statistics current as of November, 2013).

Information for this article comes from the essay, “Will Social Media Save Newspapers?” by Alice Ju, Sun Ho Jeong and Hsiang Iris Chyi.

Photo credit: Maryland GovPics / Flickr Cc

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