New Meta research is bad news for News Bargaining Code

As Australian publishers fight to force social media platforms to pay them for news content, a new study has found that, aside from with X, most people aren’t visiting social media for news.

These are the findings from a new Pew Research Center survey of about 10,000 U.S. adults conducted in March, 2024. Although the study is from the US, it highlights the differing ways in which people interact with, and use, the various social media sites.

In terms of proliferation of news content, half of X users say they “regularly get news on the platform”, compared with 40% of TikTok users, 37% of Facebook users, and 30% of those on Instagram. But this is merely how often this content floats into their feeds.

The survey also asked users of the above four platforms whether keeping up with the news is either a major or minor reason they use the platform – or not a reason at all.

X is the only platform that most users visit for news — not surprising, given the brevity of the posts on the site — with 65% of those on X saying that keeping up with the news is either a major or minor reason they use it.

However, news is a ‘major’ reason for just one in four X users, and the platform leads the pack. Just 15% of TikTok users, 8% of Instagram users, and 7% of Facebook users say it’s a major reason they use the platform.

The survey further divided news content into four types: opinions on news; funny posts referencing current news; straight news articles from news outlets; and information about a breaking news event.

On Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, people are far more likely to see opinions or funny posts referencing the news, then straight news articles or breaking news alerts. On these platforms, “users are less likely to say they ever see news articles (whether posted, reposted, linked or screenshotted) or information about a breaking news event as it is happening”.

When it comes to breaking news, X is the place to be, with 75% of users saying they see information about breaking news in real time there, compared to 58% of Facebook users, 55% of TikTokers, and 44% of Instagrammers.

X and Facebook users are the most likely to see news articles on each platform, with 79% of X users and 74% of Facebook users saying they do, compared to 57% of TikTok users, and 52% of those on Instagram.

Across all sites, younger users are much more likely to see information about breaking news. On X, the most likely platform on which to see breaking stories, 79% of users under 50 say they see real-time news updates, compared to 69% of those 50 and older.

While this is, as stated above, an American study, research like this doesn’t bode well for those fighting to force Meta to pay Australian news outlets for the news shared on their platform.

It certainly backs up an argument made by Meta Australia in March, as the company started unwinding itself from the News Media Bargaining Code payments.

“The truth is that interest in news is declining on our platforms and that our audiences are engaging with different types of content,” a blog post claimed.

“Primarily, we know our audiences come to Facebook to share the ups and downs of life, connect to local community groups, promote their business and or discover entertaining content. Links to news stories are a very small proportion of that — less than 3% percent of the content people see in their Facebook Feed.”

The post states bluntly: “News is not the reason people use Facebook and Instagram”, explaining “when there is less or no news on our platforms, people continue to use our services. However, much of the recent public debate suggests that Facebook needs or unfairly benefits from news content, including financially.

“This isn’t the case. Meta is a commercial business and it is in our interest to continue to create products and services that help us grow and be successful.

“The reality is that accessing news is simply not the reason most people use our services.”


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