News outlets are looking to social media as a way to gain readers, but new research suggests that digital news consumers may not recall where they got their news from.
Social media and direct surfing to news organizations' web sites were nearly equally likely to be the most common ways users got news online, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and released Thursday.
The 2,004 online news consumers surveyed from Feb. 24-March 1, 2016, said they got news by going directly to a news outlet's site 36% of the time and through social media 35% of the time. About two-thirds (65%) said that more than half the time they used the same method of getting news.
Upon visiting a news site, consumers could recall the name of the news outlet, on average, 56% of the time, the survey found. That means 44% of the time, they could not remember what source they had gotten the news from.
And consumers were more likely to remember the source if they got the link directly from the news outlet, via email or text alert, than from social media or from a friend's email or text message, the survey found. Among those who clicked on news links, 14% mentioned CNN, 12% mentioned Fox News and 10% simply listed Facebook as the source.
That's likely disheartening for news outlets who have sought to spread their content via Facebook -- and to counter fake news on the social network. And an earlier Pew survey found that about half (47%) of all Americans get some news from Facebook.