News Consumption Across Social Media in 2021

As social media and technology companies face criticism for not doing enough to stem the flow of misleading information on their platforms, a sizable portion of Americans continue to turn to these sites for news. A little under half (48%) of U.S. adults say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” a 5 percentage point decline compared with 2020, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 26-Aug. 8, 2021.1

When it comes to where Americans regularly get news on social media, Facebook outpaces all other social media sites.

In a separate question asking users of 10 social media sites whether they regularly get news there, about a third of U.S. adults (31%) say they get news regularly on Facebook, while about one-in-five Americans (22%) say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.

Other social media sites are less likely to be regular news sources. Fewer than one-in-ten Americans say they regularly get news from Reddit (7%), TikTok (6%), LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), WhatsApp (3%) and Twitch (1%).

The percentage of Americans who get news regularly from these sites has remained largely unchanged since 2020, though the share who regularly get news on Facebook has declined slightly (36% in 2020 vs. 31% in 2021).

When looking at the proportion of each social media site’s users who regularly get news there, some sites stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, is used by 23% of U.S. adults, but more than half of those users (55%) get news on the site regularly. On the other hand, YouTube, though widely used, sees a smaller portion of its users turning to the site for news regularly (30%).

Overall, the percentage of users of each site who regularly get news there has remained relatively stable since 2020, a year that included both a presidential election and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, both Facebook and TikTok buck this trend. The share of Facebook users who say they regularly get news on the site has declined 7 points since 2020, from 54% to 47% in 2021. TikTok, on the other hand, has seen a slight uptick in the portion of users who say they regularly get news on the site, rising from 22% to 29% in this period.

In some cases, there are drastic demographic differences between the people who turn to each social media site for news. For example, White adults make up a majority of the regular news consumers of Facebook and Reddit (60% and 54%, respectively), yet just under four-in-ten Instagram news consumers (36%) are White. Both Black and Hispanic adults each make up a sizable portion of Instagram’s regular news consumers (20% and 33%, respectively). People who regularly get news on Facebook are more likely to be women than men (64% vs. 35%), while two-thirds of Reddit’s regular news consumers are men. A majority of regular news consumers on LinkedIn (57%) have a four-year college degree or higher. Younger adults, those ages 18 to 29, are far more likely to regularly get news on both Snapchat and TikTok than other age groups.

The majority of regular news consumers of many sites are Democrats or lean Democratic. This may be related to the relatively young age profile of the news consumer base of these social media sites. No social media site included here has regular news consumers who are more likely to be Republican or lean Republican.

More Media Experienced Layoffs In 2020 Than In 2019

Staff layoffs continued to pummel the beleaguered U.S. newspaper industry in 2020. A third of papers with an average Sunday circulation of 50,000 or more experienced layoffs last year, a period complicated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis which examined news articles that cited staff layoffs at these outlets.

These 2020 layoffs exceed the roughly one-quarter of papers in the same circulation range that experienced layoffs in 2019 (many were the same papers) as employment within the newspaper industry continued to fall precipitously in recent years.

Large-market newspapers – those with a Sunday circulation of 250,000 or more – were the most likely to suffer layoffs in 2020, with more than half of them experiencing staff cuts. That is unlike 2019, when cuts were roughly similar across the different tiers of circulation groups studied. Meanwhile, digital-native news outlets saw a slight uptick in layoffs in 2020 compared with 2019.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many small and medium-sized newspaper companies were able to apply for federal aid through the CARES Act, a federal coronavirus aid package designed to help small businesses pay employees and other expenses. However, due to rules surrounding this loan program, many local newspapers owned by larger companies such as Gannett or McClatchy were not eligible to apply.

This analysis examines layoffs at large newspapers and digital-native news outlets during the 2017-2020 calendar years, but does not include other cost-cutting measures. During early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, many news media companies either delayed or avoided layoffs by first instituting cost-cutting measures such as furloughs or pay cuts.

About one-in-ten newspapers experienced multiple rounds of layoffs in 2020

Of the one-third of newspapers with an average Sunday circulation of 50,000 or higher that experienced layoffs in 2020, roughly one-in-ten (11%) experienced more than one publicly reported layoff, according to the study. By comparison, while fewer newspapers experienced layoffs in 2019, nearly a quarter (24%) of those that did have them expereniced multiple rounds of layoffs that year.

Nearly half of newspapers (46%) that experienced layoffs in 2020 also had layoffs in 2019, indicating that many of the same papers have been forced to implement layoffs multiple times in recent years.These findings come amid reports that many small newspapers have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and many more have sought federal aid in order to stay afloat.

Medium- and large-market newspapers saw an increase in layoffs in 2020 from 2019

Medium- and large-market newspapers – those with average Sunday circulations of 100,000 to 249,999 and 250,000 or above, respectively – experienced more layoffs in 2020 compared with 2019.

Roughly three-in-ten medium-market newspapers (27%) had publicly announced layoffs in 2020, compared with 18% in 2019. Among larger-market newspapers (those with a circulation of at least 250,000), more than half of those studied (55%) experienced layoffs in 2020. In 2019, about a quarter (27%) of larger-circulation newspapers experienced layoffs.

Smaller-market newspapers, those with a circulation between 50,000 and 99,999, experienced about the same proportion of layoffs in 2020 as 2019 (31% vs. 29%).

Layoffs at U.S. digital-native news outlets increased in 2020

Among the largest digital-native news outlets – those with a monthly average of at least 10 million unique visitors – 18% went through layoffs in 2020, up from 11% in 2019. In 2020, no digital-native news outlet that was studied experienced multiple rounds of layoffs.

While the percentage of digital-native outlets experiencing a layoff was higher in 2020 than the two years prior, it is similar to 2017, when 20% of digital-native outlets had at least one publicly announced layoff.

It is worth noting that most of the layoffs that occurred at digital-native news outlets in 2020 occurred in the latter half of the year, after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the U.S. During the early part of the outbreak, many digital news outlets postponed or avoided layoffs entirely by first implementing pay cuts and furloughs.