According to StopWaste.org, 17% of everything that’s printed can be considered waste. For many Americans, that category might actually include our most traditional source of current events: the newspaper. In fact, according to Pew Research Center data, U.S. residents now prefer to get their news from social media channels than from their morning paper.
In the digital age, it’s not surprising that our most established forms of media are struggling to survive. Over the past 20 years, major newspapers have declined in value and tend to change hands frequently. Recent tariffs have threatened the financial state of U.S. newspapers, as well. And while two-thirds of parents worry that their children spend too much time on electronic devices, the sad truth is that adults likely do, too. Newspaper readership has been on the decline in recent years, but now social media has officially outpaced the humble newspaper as the preferred news source for Americans.
After all, we use social media for just about everything now. Sure, it’s a fun way to connect with friends, but we also use it to shop and learn. We even use it to get jobs, as 93% of recruiters look at the social media profiles of potential hires. And now, we prefer it as our main way to stay up-to-date on everything happening in our world. According to the recently released Pew study, one-fifth of U.S. adults say that they get their news via social media. While that doesn’t represent a substantial lead over the number of adults who still read the paper, it does reflect the first time social networking sites have actually edged out other fledgling news sources.
The shift, experts say, is the result of lower circulation rates of newspapers and increased usage of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Every year, users share 730 billion photos on Facebook alone, which gives a small indication of how frequently and enthusiastically people around the world use these channels. Still, the growing popularity of social media doesn’t currently hold a candle to television. While young Americans tend to consume more media via the internet and their phones than through a TV screen, it’s still the top source of news information for America as a whole. News websites and radio are actually more popular sources than social media, as well, with newspapers lagging even further behind. Notably, 43% of U.S. adults get their news from websites or social media, meaning that it probably won’t be too long before more Americans start to favor internet-based news more than even their local TV station. And even older Americans say they typically watch the news instead of read it in the paper.
The research may be disheartening for America’s newspapers, making it just the most recent blow in a series of many. A study conducted by Pew Research Center last year found that U.S. daily newspaper circulation, which combines both print and digital news, was down by nearly 11% from the previous year. And although the cries of “fake news!” are strong among Americans on either side of the divide, it seems that many people may actually trust what they see on their social media feeds over established news sources that employ trusted journalists and use verifiable research.