From the desk of Patrick Ward...
Recently we explored the current state of news consumption in print. We did that – as we said then — mostly as a way to wrap some perspective around where news consumption appears to be headed. So now we’d like to turn our sights on that perspective.
Worldwide usage of social networking is plainly on the rise with both Facebook and Twitter experiencing dramatic increases in membership. Facebook has over 400 million users, according to its own statistics. Not only are users increasing (Facebook alone had 130 million unique visitors in May 2010) but the time spent on these web sites now also averages over six hours per month. With such a large captive audience, social networks offer a multitude of opportunities, from making new contacts to sharing news and information.
Social network users are not merely connecting statically. In fact, many people who initially create a connection through a social networking medium are likely to follow up and maintain that relationship through the use of email, phone conversations, or in-person meetings.
A PEW Research Center report points out that news is increasingly becoming a social activity. The report tells us that:
· 71% of adults get their news online
· 75% of them say they get news forwarded to them through email or posts on social networking sites
· 65% of Internet users say they read at least some of this forwarded content; and more than half of those say they read all or most of that news
Of those adults who receive news through social networks, many say they pass it along. Social networkers are more likely to select a news source based on how easy it is to share that source’s stories through social networks. Of all social network users, 51% report that on a typical day they receive news from social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.
With the rise of social networking, users are becoming increasingly reliant upon these networks as trusted sources of news and information. This has obvious implications on traditional news organizations but also portends the opportunities for other ‘brands’ to become sources of news and news content. At present, the vast majority of the ‘distributors’ of news on social networks is comprised of individuals. But, as more and more commercial social network pages emerge and attract supporters, those companies will certainly become sources of news and other information -- both their own and curated from other places -- for their communities.
For some, the idea of individual companies circulating news directly to the public without the traditional filter of a news organization smacks of self-promotion. It may also undermine journalistic efforts. And certainly some might take advantage -- an iPhone gaming company was accused of pumping up supposedly independent reviews last year. But, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. There is no inherent ethical issue here, so long as companies exercise intelligence and judgment in what they share with communities. There is a growing sentiment that content may define the next era of the Internet. If so, then companies have an emerging opportunity to turn the growing affinity for online news into an opportunity to evince their market perspectives forcefully and effectively.