News consumption has changed over the years as more people turn to social media to be updated for the latest news. How does this trend affect the online publishing industry?

Reuters Institute has released its Digital News Report for 2016 and it has been confirmed that more and more people prefer consuming content through social networks, with the younger generations significantly contributing to this rise.

64% of people aged 18-24 said they rely on online media for their information, and 28% became more specific, picking social media among all the online options.

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Social media as the main source of news for each country

Not every country shares the same preference on consuming the news through social media, with Greece, Turkey and Brazil being the ones that pick social media more than any other source.

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There’s an average of 46% of Europeans using social media for news, although people in UK (35%) and Germany (31%) are not very close to the adoption rate that Greece, Portugal and Ireland have.

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Why Facebook wins in news consumption

Facebook is the most popular social network for news consumption, with Youtube following it closely, while Twitter is way behind, despite its instant and news-led nature.

This can be justified by the fact that people spend more time on Facebook daily, which means that they end up consuming more news stories while browsing their news feeds.

Twitter for example could have the potential of increasing its status in the online news consumption, but it still hasn’t managed to maintain a consistent engagement among users.
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Video news consumption still has a long way to go

There may be a significant increase of video content on social media, but apparently online news video is growing more slowly than what we probably expected. Only 24% of respondents among 26 countries answered that (Read more...) accessed an online news video during a particular week.

News video consumption seems to be the highest in the United States (33%), with the European countries staying behind with an average of 22% among the participants.

This can be justified by the big US publishers who heavily focused on video content lately and despite the slow growth, we expect this number to rise in the next years, so there’s no need to panic if you’ve just included video content in your content strategy.

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How often do we visit a site’s homepage?

Do you remember the last time you visited a site’s homepage (without being led to it in any way)? As our browsing habits change, publishers should understand that this is not necessarily bad for their site’s traffic, as it can be compensated with further clicks through SEO and social traffic.

As news consumption is moving to social media, homepages become less important for readers. This doesn’t mean that a publisher should completely abandon the site’s homepage, but it’s ok to accept that the traffic is directed differently nowadays.
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How smartphone usage affects news consumption

There is a consistent increase of smartphone usage during the past years and according to Reuters 53% of its sample uses a smartphone to access news, with Sweden (69%), Korea (66%), and Switzerland (61%) noting the highest levels of usage.

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A smartphone can be convenient for news updates, as many users access it on the go, while social media is a popular destination many times during the day. That’s why 19% of those who use smartphone as their main device claims to access news more than five times a day.

There’s a combination of F.O.M.O and addiction to content consumption which forms the modern reader, especially the younger generation, although the news consumption through social media may affect the broad scope of the topic, favouring personalisation over objectivity.

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It’s the addictive nature of the smartphone that makes most of us access it first thing in the morning and hence, that’s where we access the news of the day.

It’s interesting to compare how UK and US differ in the first news source they use on a smartphone. British people tend to rely to a large extent on a news website or an app when accessing their first news source, while Americans prefer to the same percentage (48%) social media for the news coverage.

Why people use news social media along with news aggregators

Facebook may be the primary source for online news consumption, but news aggregators are also present, especially in Asia and partly in Europe.

Apple News and Flipboard are the most popular options all over the world, with people turning to news aggregators mostly to stay up-to-date with the latest news, while having an abundance of sources to find the right angle for every story. It’s a quick way to discover the breaking news, while they don’t seem to be engaging, as they don’t always offer an easy way to share a story.

This frequently leads to a mix of social media and news aggregators, creating a well-rounded online reader who wants to blend immediacy with interaction.
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How news consumption through social media affects brands

Publishers start losing the control of the distribution and the consumption of the news and this creates a further confusion regarding their strategy. Do they stay loyal to their old tactics, or should they surrender to the brand new world?

It’s always a better idea to blend old and new tactics to achieve the desired result, which is usually the traffic and the engagement to the site.

There’s a growing concern with the domination of social media and news aggregators regarding the brand recognition, as not every reader notices the actual brand during the news consumption. Brand recognition may be strong in Finland (60%) and Germany (55%), but it’s way behind in Australia (36%), or in Ireland (33%).

The stats are even lower in Japan and Korea while using news aggregators, which makes publishers wonder how this will eventually affect their branding, their exposure and of course, their income.

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How news consumption is further changing

Facebook may be the primary source for readers who want to stay up-to-date during the day, but this doesn’t mean that other platforms can be useful. Snapchat is appealing to more and more people the past year and the engagement among the younger audience is impressive.

As for the news consumption, Snapchat may be behind in most countries with minimal avid news junkies, but this does not occur in U.S., as 12% of people aged 18-24 use Snapchat Discover for news consumption.

If this still doesn’t sound convincing for a publisher to join Snapchat for content creation, then consider the fact that Buzzfeed’s Snapchat presence takes more than 20% of its total traffic, while Cosmopolitan numbers more than 3 million views daily from its content on Snapchat.

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As times change, publishers are becoming ready to embrace a new digital world, in an attempt to keep up with the latest trends, being where their readers are. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other platform, there’s always a need for the right strategy that will make the brand mention memorable, while increasing the engagement with the audience.

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