A Pew study provides further evidence of the growing importance of social networks as a way for people to share and recommend news stories.
While Google was the top referral service, accounting for about 30 per cent of traffic to news sites, social recommendation is playing an increasingly significant role.
Overall, Facebook was responsible for three per cent of visits. For five sites, the social network was the second or third most popular driver to their content.
“Facebook is beginning to join Google as one of the most influential players in driving news audiences,” said the study that analysed the flow of traffic in the US to 25 news websites using statistics from Nielsen.
If searching for news was the most important development of the last decade, sharing news may be among the most important of the next.
In contrast, Twitter ”barely registers as a referring source,” accounting for less than one per cent of traffic. Only the Los Angeles Times received more visits from Twitter than Facebook - 3.5 per cent versus just over two per cent.
Pew also found that the inclusion of social recommendation tools on news stories “seems to have paid off,” suggesting that ”while these are technically clicks away from the site, they are positive clicks away, likely multiplying additional traffic to that story.”
The Pew study is in line with the results of a CMRC study published last week on the impact of social media on how Canadians get the news.
The study, on which I was the lead author, found that 43% of social media users said they get some of their daily news via recommendations from friends and family on sites like Facebook: the equivalent of 6.5m Canadians.
But we found that more people prefer to get their news via their friends and acquaintances on social media, than from a journalist or news organization.
Our survey also highlighted the importance of providing sharing tools on news stories. Close to two-thirds of social media users said they valued being able to easily share content with others, with the figure jumping to 83 per cent for young Canadians.
While Google and the news homepage still dominant how people get the news, both the Pew and CMRC studies point to a shift towards social recommendation influencing what news gets read online.