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Getting Your News From Social

Recently, the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project released a study that concluded that news consumption on Facebook was common, but incidental to users. Today, Pew released findings from the same study regarding Twitter users consumption of news. As part of our Authority Report, Parse.ly tracks the incoming referral traffic to over five billion pageviews for news websites. So we thought we’d take a look at the data from our side.

Below we selected a few findings from the report and took a look from the publisher side.

Pew Research Center Journalism Project

Pew Finding: Facebook news consumers still access other platforms for news to roughly the same degree as the population overall.

Parse.ly Site Analysis:

Here are the quick and dirty facts:

  • Facebook is the top referral source for 10% of our news websites, meaning that these sites see the most external traffic from Facebook
  • Facebook is the number two referral site overall, with the number one being Google and Google properties (including search). Google has a commanding lead however, as 66% of our sites have Google sending the most external traffic
  • Other sites that top the list are Pinterest, Yahoo, and StumbleUpon, as well as fellow news sites, including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.

See the full list of referral sources to our network of news websites by downloading our Authority Report.

Pew Finding:  Facebook news consumers who “like” or follow news organizations or journalists show high levels of news engagement on the site.

Parse.ly Site Analysis:  We looked to see if there was any correlation between the number of Facebook likes and the referral traffic overall. For this, we created a metric called “Facebook Likes Ratio” (FLR) which compared Facebook likes to a site’s article traffic. Sites with Facebook as the largest referral source had an average FLR of 42%. By comparison, a sample of similar sites (based on audience size and topics) that did not have Facebook as their main referral source had an average FLR of 7%.

Did we make up a metric to determine this? Yes, but could some publishers possibly use that metric to help grow audiences and traffic? Certainly.

Pew Finding:  Roughly half, 49%, of Facebook news consumers report regularly getting news on six or more different topics. The most popular topic is entertainment news, which 73% of Facebook news consumers get regularly on the site. Close behind is news about events in one’s own community (65%). National politics and government rank fourth, reaching 55% of these consumers regularly, just behind sports, which reaches 57% regularly.

Parse.ly Site Analysis: None of the sites with Facebook as the largest referrer are in the entertainment vertical. However, half were in the general news and information sector, which includes local and national entertainment, community, government, politics and sports. Perhaps within these sites, specific sections are getting more social referrers? Editors can use Parse.ly to determine the answer to exactly this sort of question, and create a social media strategy around the results.

Pew Finding: Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults (8%) get news through Twitter

Parse.ly Site Analysis: Twitter is not the top source of referral traffic for any site in our network. This seems in keeping with the 8% finding, though there are interesting points specific to the Twitter users from the Pew study: “Twitter news consumers stand out for being younger and more educated than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers.” The study also found that Twitter was used more for breaking news, something that could be tracked with our real-time feature, Pulse, or through our API.

Read more about the Pew findings on their website.