New Study reveals Facebook’s influence on the News

Tech News from Ascentive

According to a new study on the flow of traffic to the Web’s 25 largest news destinations, the social network Facebook is influencing what news gets read online, as Facebook users have to ability to use the network to share and recommend content. The study was released on Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The Pew report is based on an analysis of Internet traffic data compiled by the research firm Nielsen Co. during the first nine months of last year.

The popular social network site is responsible for 3 percent of traffic to the 21 news sites that allowed data to be tracked, according to the study’s co-author, Amy Mitchell. Five of the sites studied got 6 percent to 8 percent of their readers from Facebook.

The referrals to the news sites typically came from links posted by friends on Facebook’s social-networking site or from Facebook’s “like” buttons, which Facebook encourages other websites to place alongside their content, usually through the use of a plugin.

Although Facebook is making a substantial impact on the news, according to the report, the single biggest source remained Google, which accounted for an average of 30 percent of the traffic as people used the search engine to find topics and stories. For some sites, the Drudge Report was the top source. However, Facebook and other sharing tools are empowering people to rely on their online social circles to point out interesting content. Google uses an automated formula to help people find news. Facebook is at the forefront of this shift because it has more than 500 million worldwide users, more than any other Internet service built for socializing and sharing.

“If searching for the news was the most important development of the last decade, sharing the news may be among the most important of the next,” the Pew report said.

Pew examined data from various Internet research sources, such as Nielsen Co., ComScore and Hitwise, during the first nine months of 2010. The study focused on the top 25 general interest news sites, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, AOL News, Reuters, Yahoo News, and Google News. The study found an average 77 percent of the traffic came from “casual users” who visited just once or twice a month. And in 34 percent of those visits, users spent from one to five minutes on the site per month.

The study also found that 25 to 29 percent of the audiences for the top news sites have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 21 percent of general Internet users. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the BBC, the Boston Globe and SFGate.com had the highest percentages of users with post-graduate degrees.

Also of note, according to the researchers from Millward Brown Optimor, Facebook’s brand has grown in value to $19.1 billion, an increase of over 246 percent as compared to last year.

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