- The use of Facebook to access news has dropped 9 percentage points from 2017 in the U.S. and 20 points for younger users, according to a Reuters Institute survey conducted by YouGov. Young people are more often using Facebook-owned WhatsApp or other messaging apps to discuss news and events.
- The survey of 74,000 people in 37 markets was conducted before Facebook adjusted its News Feed filters in January and revelations about the misuse of millions of users' personal data that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Findings show that users may still turn to Facebook and Twitter to discover news, but choose to discuss events on messaging apps where they can have more private conversations.
- Other findings reveal that less than half of survey respondents worldwide said they trust the media most of the time. In the U.S., 34% reported trusting the news, a four-point drop over the previous year. Local TV news and The Wall Street Journal were the most trusted news brands in the U.S.
The Reuters research shines the spotlight on younger consumers’ complex relationships with social media and reinforces previous research suggesting Facebook is losing some of its relevance. Today’s 24-hour news cycle and divisive political climate can make social media platforms a stressful place to be, which may partially explain why younger users appear to be seeking out a place to share their thoughts and engage in conversations without feeling judged or leaving behind a public record of their opinions. For marketers, the findings underscore the importance of working with messaging apps if they want to reach younger consumers.
A separate study by Hill Holliday’s Origin found that 34% of Gen Zers, individuals born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, said they were permanently leaving social media, and 64% reported taking a break from the platforms. Many said social media makes them feel sad, anxious or depressed, and that they weren’t interested in the content on the platforms.
Facebook lost about 1.4 million users in the 12- to 17-year-old segment in 2017, a 9.9% drop, according to Recode citing eMarketer data. Younger users often prefer the anonymity that messaging apps, like WhatsApp, offer and platforms, like Snapchat or Instagram, that have features making shared content disappear. Use of mobile messaging apps was projected to hit an all-time high in 2017, with 76.3% of worldwide smartphone users using an app, according to eMarketer. WhatsApp was ranked as one of the most-used platforms.
Facebook has made several changes to its platform in recent months, as it has been dealing with fallout from the misuse of data from 87 million users by Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to the Trump presidential campaign. Since the Reuters report is based on a survey conducted before news of the scandal spread, it will be interesting to see how Facebook's high-profile missteps will impact its use for news going forward. While the platform has lost some advertisers and users over privacy concerns, it’s still unclear what the impact will be on its revenue and user base.