Seeking exposure. Performing expression: News on Facebook and Twitter

This morning The American Press Institute, The Associated Press and NORC released the results of a survey about Millennials’ news use.

It’s full of interesting results: They* don’t like to pay for news. They bump into their news instead of seeking it out. They get their news from social media.

But, here’s the part that I found most interesting:

Millennials say they are going online to be exposed to content. In the survey questions about what motivates the respondents to visit Facebook or Twitter, the majority of people said they were looking for exposure to content. These answers, including answers like “see what’s trending,” “find things that entertain me” or “get more information,” are all about the old model of information flow: from news organizations to audiences. The top motivation to visit Facebook and Twitter is to see what other people are saying. In fact, only 12 percent of respondents said they went on Twitter to share content or share something.

But, the activities that the respondents reported include more about expression activities. Three-fifths of respondents said they regularly click like on a news story shared by a friend. More than 40 percent said they share news regularly on Facebook. And, a third are commenting on news regularly.

Far fewer of the respondents use Twitter. But, still a third of those who do are regularly tweeting about news are retweeting headlines. Twenty percent are composing their own tweets and linking to a news story in a tweet regularly.

That Millennials are going to social media sites to receive information instead somewhat regularly sharing it or expressing their support of it suggests we need new models to explain who these new audiences are. What turns a person who is used to seeking out news into a news content sharing user? Commenters? Is news sharing more about the individual’s characteristics or the characteristics of the content? When they are constantly blamed for oversharing, what prevents more from sharing news?

So many good questions to explore as we continue to examine a news system that allows both exposure and expression.

*I use the pronoun “they,” but by most modern definitions including the one used in this survey I slide into the cutoff. Hello, I’m Megan, and I’m a Millennial.

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