Social media has changed how people communicate and consume media. For better or for worse, digital media enables people far and wide to discuss whatever they want, whenever they want. But which topics surface most often, and what are people most interested in discussing on social? A study from Spot.IM, a platform for building custom social networks, answers these questions and examines media consumption habits related to news and politics.
According to the Spot.IM report, younger social media users are most likely to post comments. 66 percent of users aged 18 and 19 prefer to comment on news articles through social, while 60 percent of users aged 60-plus prefer publisher websites. The changeover point for preference occurs between ages 43 and 45.
Overall 33 percent of survey respondents wanted fewer news articles in their social news feeds, and 52 percent didn’t care one way or the other. Among users over the age of 30, the desire to read news articles online decreased to 11 percent to 13 percent. Despite a seemingly endless amount of news posts in social feeds, this data echoes earlier findings that social users are more interested in each other than they are in news.
Still, politics is one of the top discussion topics users choose to respond to with comments. 48 percent comment on humor posts, 36 percent comment on political posts, 36 percent comment on food posts and 30 percent engaged with posts about world news.
So while it may seem contradictory, users are both less interested in news posts than one might expect and more interested in politics. This may be the result of the discussion around the current election cycle. Indeed, 21 percent of respondent said they engaged on social media during a presidential debate.
Much like social media is changing the nature of politics, politics could be changing user behavior during political campaigns. It’s likely that increased coverage leads to increased discussion, or perhaps the cycle of outrage is the the culprit, particularly when we look at the polarization seen in the chart below. There are many factors at play when it comes to online political discussion, and there are no quick answers when seeking to engage political audiences.
Overall, this report may indicate a decline in interest in social media newsgathering, or it may be the case that the interests of general users of social media are cyclical. Evergreen topics like humor, food and cute animals are usually safe topics for engagement, but pricklier topics like politics may just cycle in and out of feeds as they become important.