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Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter and Facebook Are Tomorrow’s News Service. For Now, Though …

If you’re like me, you increasingly rely on Twitter and Facebook as your news editors. But that means we’re in a small minority.

Just 9 percent of American adults frequently get their news from their pals at the two services. And those who do end up getting it much more frequently from Facebook than Twitter. That’s according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center and its Project for Excellence in Journalism. (Apologies that we didn’t have the link when this story first published – it wasn’t available in advance.)

That’s a lot more than a few years ago, when that number would have been a goose egg for both services, because they didn’t exist.

But it’s still a whole lot less than Google and other search engines*, which do the trick 32 percent of the time, or good old-fashioned news sites, which account for 36 percent of the audience’s tips. Aggregators — Pew calls them “news organizers” — pick up the rest.

Take off your digital blinders for a minute and this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. It’s easy to extrapolate your behavior, and the behavior you see from your peers, and assume that it applies universally. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. (If it was, we’d actually see statistical evidence of cord-cutting.)

At AllThingsD, for instance, we’ve been making a concerted push to bring in visitors via Twitter and Facebook, mostly through the efforts of our social media whiz Drake Martinet. But even though our audience hangs out on the right end of the early-adopter bell curve, Drake says social services account for about 15 percent of our referrals, predominantly from Twitter. (Which is a whole lot better than it was before Drake started working his magic.)

Wait a minute: Aren’t the Pew people the same ones who told us, a year ago, that Facebook was an increasingly important source of traffic for news sites?

Yup. (Good memory!)

But these two reports aren’t mutually exclusive. Last year’s survey pointed out that social media is a lot more important to news sites than it used to be. This one just reminds us that, for most sites, other stuff still matters more.

*Okay. Basically, just Google.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik