How and Why Do Consumers Access News on Social Media?

Two cell phones side by side, one showing a screen grab from the Guardian’s “Fake or for Real” feature, the other showing a screen grab of a Washington Post TikTok.

Image credit: Reuters Institute

It’s not news that fewer people than ever get their news from newspapers. Many people, particularly younger ones, use social media to stay informed of events. But how many people? Who are they? Which platforms do they use? And why have these become the sources of choice? Good questions, right? Political science professor Simge Andı researched them extensively; her detailed report was published in June 2021 by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Read it here.


1. What conclusion does Andı draw? Summarize it briefly. How well do the data she presents support her conclusion? What is the reasoning behind your assessment? Point to one or more examples from the article to support your ideas. 

2. Andı’s report is packed full of carefully collected data about social media use that could be of some interest to practically everybody, but she is not really writing for a general audience of everybody. Who is the intended audience for the report? What is its purpose? (Hint: pay particular attention to the conclusion and to the publication’s context.) Finally, do you think the report accomplishes its purpose? Why or why not?  

3. LET’S TALK One of Andı’s research questions (Q12B) is: “Which, if any, of the following (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat) have you used for finding, reading, watching, sharing, or discussing news in the last week?” Provide your own response to the question and work with a small group of classmates to share. Make an informal compilation of your data. How do your results compare with what Andı presents in the table labeled “Profile of users on each social network: All markets”? If there are substantial differences between your group and Andı’s data, how might you account for them?  

4. AND NOW WRITE Choose any one of the data tables in Andı’s report and prepare a three- to five-minute presentation explaining and interpreting the table. Include a discussion of the question that the table is addressing and the place(s) where the data were gathered. Point out any items that you think are particularly important in the table; for example, a comparison between results for Facebook and Twitter. You may want to use PowerPoint for a live presentation or a screencast for a virtual project. 

5. CROSS TALK Andı is writing about news consumption—reporting on the kinds of accounts people read and watch on certain platforms. Renée DiResta (link here) also investigates social media use, but she focuses not only on consumption but also on the active behaviors of retweets, group formation, and more. Imagine a conversation between the two authors. What might Andı want to ask DiResta? What might DiResta want to ask Andı? In what ways, if at all, could Andı’s findings support DiResta’s arguments?

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