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June 12, 2024

News now a major reason why Americans are using Tiktok, research shows

News is not the main reason most people use Facebook, research shows, but it draws a large minority.

By Bron Maher

Some 41% of Tiktok users in the US say news is a reason they use the platform, versus 37% of Facebook users and 33% on Instagram.

However X, formerly Twitter, still comes out on top with 65% using the platform for news despite suggestions last year that news-heavy users like journalists might move away from the platform under changes made by new owner Elon Musk. News was the second most popular reason given for using X after entertainment (81%).

The survey of 10,287 adult internet users in the US, carried out by Pew Research Center in March, indicated a continued interest in news on Facebook despite Meta’s winding down of its relationship with publishers and its claim that just 3% of content in user feeds is news meaning publisher content is playing a “diminishing role on the platform.

According to separate Pew research, 68% of US adults use Facebook versus 47% who use Instagram, 33% who use Tiktok and 22% who use Twitter.

Among the survey’s other findings it revealed two-thirds of Facebook users aged below 50 see information about breaking news on the platform as events are happening.

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However the use of Facebook for news continued to be eclipsed by other uses: for example, 76% of US users said they use the platform for entertainment, 74% to connect with others who share their interests and 93% to keep up with friends or family.

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Most people who identified news as a reason they use a platform identified it as a "minor" reason. It was a major reason of use for 7% of all Facebook users and 8% of all Instagram users but this shoots up to 15% for Tiktok and 25% for X.

Nonetheless, the proportion of respondents who said they "regularly" get news or news headlines from each platform was similar to the combined proportion who said news was either a major or minor reason they use social media.

Although hard news was one of the less popular types of content among respondents, other kinds of content provided by professional publishers proved more popular. Just over half (52%) of Instagram users said they use the app to keep up with sports or pop culture and 53% of Tiktok users said the same.

Within those figures 20% of Tiktok users and 19% of Instagram users gave sport and pop culture updates as a "major" reason they use the platforms.

Another mainstay topic of news coverage, politics, was the most unpopular type of content for social media users.

Although a large minority of social media users say they actively seek out news, the survey shows news in some form or another reaches most people. More than half of Instagram and Tiktok users reported ever seeing news articles on their feeds, whether posted, reposted, linked or screenshotted.

Far more common, however, was users encountering news through jokes or opinionated posts. More than eight in ten (84%) of Facebook users said they see people expressing opinions about current events, and 81% said they see funny posts that reference current events.

In line with that, 85% of regular news consumers on Facebook said they get news from friends, family and acquaintances while 72% of Instagram users said the same.

However news outlets and journalists were a major source of news identified by respondents. More than two-thirds (68%) of Facebook users, 65% of Instagram users, 67% of Tiktok users and 80% of X users who say they regularly receive news on each platform said they get news from outlets or journalists.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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