Good news for journalists worried about Facebook

The Pew Research Center has a new study out showing that a good portion of Americans get news from Facebook, even though that’s generally not the reason they visit the social network. In other words, Facebook is a news source, but largely an accidental one.

For journalists, and for people who care about quality journalism, this offers some good news. On the surface, it means that real news consumers – those who seek out the day’s news – have not replaced their normal sources with Facebook. So media outlets aren’t directly competing with Facebook in this sense. Good news, right?

It gets better. The study shows that Facebook actually offers the news media an opportunity to reach an audience they really need: young people. Young people (ages 18-29) account for 34% of all American adults who consume news on Facebook, the study found. And while young people are notoriously hard for newspapers to reach in print, they turn to Facebook for news just as often as their elders.

The reason this is significant is that it offers newspapers an opportunity to build name and brand recognition among this desired demographic. Though 18- to 29-year-olds may be less likely than other age groups to buy a newspaper, newspapers can still find and connect with them via Facebook. The social network offers a path to reaching this group and winning their respect, and starting to build brand loyalty among them.

It would be premature, and perhaps just wishful thinking, to suggest that this group can be converted into regular newspaper buyers anytime soon. But it’s not unreasonable to believe that news outlets can use Facebook as a platform to help build respect as credible and valuable news sources. Remember: the main finding of this study was that people aren’t actually turning to Facebook to get their news. So if you’re in the news business, and hoping to reach this age group, your challenge is to convince them that when they do actively seek out news, they should look first to you. As it turns out, Facebook may offer you the chance to do just that.

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