The social nature of information

A few years ago, researchers Esther Thorson and Margaret Duffy conducted a meta-analysis of media-usage studies to develop the Media Choice Model.

The model focuses on four communication needs that people seek to satisfy when they choose media sources: information, connectivity, entertainment, and consumption.

A new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reveals how information and connectivity may be blending in the new-media environment.

Half of all adults surveyed — whether they get news online or not — said they rely on those around them for the news.

Online, the expectation of news-sharing grows:

  • Almost two-thirds of online news users (65%) said they do not have a favorite online news source.
  • Three-quarters of online news users receive news via forwarded e-mail or social-networking posts.
  • More than half (52%) share links via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites.
  • One-quarter say it is important to be able to follow a news organization through a social-networking site.

But it goes beyond those who are online news users. Nearly a third (30%) of all Internet users get news from people they follow (friends, professionals, and others) on social-networking sites.

Though the national survey of 2,259 adults (margin of error: +/-2.3 percentage points) focused on news, the findings have implications for anyone trying to provide information on the Internet.

To engage the online public, it is critical and necessary to weave in social components to construct a foundation of trust and credibility. Your users must understand your values. That investment may lead to peer sharing and build your community of users.

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