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How Facebook is shaping what news you read online

A study in the US has found that the social networking giant is increasingly determining what news people are reading online but not as much as Google.

Image: ROB KIM/LANDOV/Press Association Images

FACEBOOK IS INFLUENCING what news gets read online as people use the internet’s most popular social network to share and recommend content.

A study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at the the flow of traffic to the Web’s 25 largest news destination and determined that Facebook was increasingly determining what news people read online.

Facebook was responsible for 3 per cent of traffic to the 21 news sites that allowed data to be tracked, according to the study’s co-author Amy Mitchell.

Five of the sites studied got 6 per cent to 8 per cent of their readers from Facebook.

The referrals typically came from links posted by friends on Facebook’s social-networking site or from the ubiquitous “like” buttons, which Facebook encourages other websites to place alongside their content.

However Facebook’s effect is small when compared to Google. Google Inc.’s dominant search engine supplies about 30 percent of traffic to the top news sites, according to Pew.

However, Facebook and other sharing tools, such as Addthis.com, are empowering people to rely on their online social circles to point out interesting content.

By contrast, Google uses an automated formula to help people find news.

Facebook is at the forefront of this shift because it has more than 500 million worldwide users. That’s far more than any other internet service built for socialising and sharing.

Meanwhile, major news sites are getting less than 1 per cent of their traffic from Twitter, even though it had about 175 million accounts last year.

Among those studied by Pew, only the Los Angeles Times’ website got more traffic from Twitter than Facebook.

Twitter accounted for 3.5 per cent of the online traffic to the Los Angeles Times, compared with slightly more than 2 percent from Facebook.

The Drudge Report, a site started during the 1990s, is a far more significant traffic source for news sites than Twitter, according to the Pew study.

The Pew report is based on an analysis of internet traffic data compiled by the research firm Nielsen Co. during the first nine months of last year.

- AP

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