Jun 27, 2023 - Economy

Social media news consumption slows globally

Data: Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023; Chart: Axios Visuals; Note: Respondents were ages 18+ from select countries, including UK, USA, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Australia, Brazil and Ireland

Social media has shrunk as a source for news, mostly due to Facebook's global pullback from news.

Why it matters: Growth in news consumption on vertical video platforms like TikTok and Instagram has not grown fast enough to offset the reduction in news consumption on Facebook globally.

By the numbers: Social media news consumption peaked in 2020, according to the annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report.

  • Today, it is slightly lower from the 2020 peak, but it's up from 2022, when news consumption on social media fell to pre-pandemic levels.
  • A Pew Research Center survey from last year similarly showed most social media platforms — with the exception of TikTok and Instagram — declined as regular news sources for American adults.

Be smart: Both studies help to contextualize data that suggests fewer news and media companies are getting traffic referrals from social networks.

  • The top 100 news and media sites saw a 53% drop in organic referrals from social media over the past three years, according to digital data and analytics firm Similarweb.
  • That decline is largely attributable to Facebook's pullback from news. Facebook's newsfeed made it easier to share links compared to newer video platforms like TikTok.

Yes, but: News consumption broadly reached an all-time high in 2020, given the relentless news cycle around the pandemic and 2020 election — so it makes sense that social media news consumption would taper off accordingly.

The big picture: Meta and its rivals, like Google, are facing more pressure from lawmakers globally to pay publishers for their content. Those efforts, combined with new measures designed to fine Big Tech for spreading misinformation, are prompting Big Tech's retreat from news.

  • Meta last week said it will block the sharing of news links on Facebook and Instagram in Canada, in response to the passage of a bill in Parliament that will require some tech firms to pay news publishers for content that appears on their platforms.
  • Google spokesperson Jenn Crider said the company is "doing everything we can to avoid an outcome that no one wants" in Canada and is "continuing to urgently seek to work with the government on a path forward."
  • She noted that none of Google's concerns about the bill "have been addressed," despite attempts to work with regulators, and that the bill "remains unworkable."

In the U.S., Meta has already threatened to pull news links from its platforms in California if state lawmakers moved forward with a bill that would tax them for news content.

  • Google has not released a statement about the California bill, but a source familiar with the company's thinking said Google is concerned about the bill's provisions.

What to watch: While Meta and Google have both pushed back global measures that would force them to pay publishers, Google has so far taken more action to work out agreements to pay publishers in certain countries.

  • Meta last year said it would cut payments to U.S. publishers for their content that runs on Facebook's News Tab.
  • Google, meanwhile, will finally debut its News Showcase product in the U.S. this summer. It will provide funding to mostly local and regional publishers in the U.S. whose content appears on dedicated spaces within Google's search products meant to elevate high-quality information.

Go deeper: Meta threatens to pull news from its apps in California

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