One-Fifth of Americans Rely on Social Media for News

NEW YORK: Around 20 percent of Americans get news from social media platforms—the upshot of market data from Scarborough Research. This particular group of Americans comprises Millennials—people aged 18 to 29.

“Millennials are 53 percent more likely than all U.S. adults to feel that social media sites are very important for finding information about news and current events,” Scarborough said.

The demographic represents the first generation of people raised with near constant access to digital networking, the study noted. Millennials now spend more than 82 minutes a day engaged in social networking—32 minutes more than the average adult.

“When asked how they found out about recent major news events like the killing of Osama bin Laden, the organization of the Occupy movement or the re-election of President Obama, every Scarborough Millennial responded identically—social media,” the firm said.

The company used data from Nielsen Media Research as well as from a number of its own studies and feedback from Millennials employed at Scarborough.

With regard to TV, Millennials expect programming to come to them. Twenty-seven-year-old Haley Dercher of Scarborough said, “I’m too used to having portable media to commit to a television programming schedule. I watch current television shows, but I don’t need to do it from home on someone else’s schedule. The easier a show is to access from multiple devices, the more likely I am to watch it.”

Millennials are twice as likely as all U.S. adults to watch or download TV shows online. Among broadcast networks, 57 percent had watched something from Fox within the past week. ABC was next at 55 percent, followed by CBS at 48 percent; NBC at 39 percent and The CW at 18 percent.

While their comments indicated they go to social media sites to see what’s trending, Millennials use traditional news sources to track down further information. More than half reported reading a newspaper—either hard copy or online—within the previous week. The figure conflicted with longer-term data on adults 21-34 starting in 2001 (instead of Millennials as most were not yet adults, Scarborough said), that indicated newspaper readership fell from 40 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2011.

Within this decade-long evolutionary look at media use, radio listenership fell only 1 percent to 14 percent in 2011. Cable subscribers in the age group dropped from 67 percent to 52 percent. Local morning TV news viewership remained relatively stable between 2006 at 33 percent and 2011 at 32 percent. (No data was available for 2001.) Evening local TV news went from 42 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2011. Internet news, meanwhile, rose from 33 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2011.

Millennials are more ethnically diverse than previous generations and are 49 percent more likely to identify as Hispanic than Gen X-ers and Boomers.

On the tech side, Millennials appear to live in households that have it all. Most live in households with an HDTV set—73 percent, while fewer—61 percent—reported having a smartphone. Fifty-six reported living with a video game system, and 52 percent had an MP3 player of some sort. Just one-third reported watching video clips on their cellphones, though Scarborough said they were twice as likely as all adults to do so.