A majority of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, according to a recent survey from Pew Research Center.
But Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), a company that prides itself on being a "real-time information network" (aka, news), isn't the leading source for most news readers. Just 59% of Twitter users get their news from it compared to 66% of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) users that get their news from its website and app. Not to mention that Facebook has over four times as many U.S.-based users as Twitter.
A similar survey from last year found that an equal percentage of users (63%) for each social network used them as a source for news. With Twitter's reliance on news as a differentiating factor to draw in new users and increase engagement, this trend should be worrisome to Twitter investors.
A closer look at the survey results
While the percentage of Twitter users who get their news from the social network declined over the past year, Twitter still resonates with people actively seeking out information. According to the survey results, 54% of people who got their news from Twitter were actively looking for it. That compares to just 38% from Facebook.
Additionally, Twitter news users were more likely to access news-related websites and apps compared to any other social network's users, indicating that Twitter users are very interested in current events.
Facebook is simply a daily habit for the majority of Americans, and the fact that it features news stories from publishers and friends makes it a de facto source for news, too. Unfortunately for Twitter and other media companies, the majority of people stop at Facebook as their online for source information. 64% of Americans get their news from just one social media source -- usually Facebook.
That means Twitter's value as an information network is somewhat redundant. If people can get all of the news they need from Facebook, a service they're logging into anyway, there's no need for them to spend time browsing their Twitter feed, too.
Moments isn't working
The survey results are even more surprising since Twitter has made it easier for its users to find and read about news. It launched Moments last fall to highlight the biggest stories happening in real time. The goal was to make it easier for users to get the most out of Twitter without having to take the time to cull through personal timelines.
The fact that a lower percentage of users report accessing Twitter to read news compared to last year indicates that not many people are engaging with Moments. That may be one reason advertisers have largely passed on advertising in the feature, according to a report from Digiday.
Management has meanwhile shifted its focus from Moments to live video. It's taken steps to integrate Periscope with the flagship Twitter app, thus opening the door for more video consumption and engagement on Twitter. The company reported a 20% sequential increase in videos posted by its users during the first quarter. Whether that translates into advertisers spending more on Twitter ads remains to be seen.
Twitter may get some help from Facebook
If there's one thing working in Twitter's favor, it's that Facebook seems uninterested in becoming a major news source. While it's pushing live video heavily, it's focused more on entertainment rather than breaking news. Additionally, the company is shutting down its news-reading app, Paper, later this month. On top of that, it recently took steps to curb the presence of publishers in its users' news feeds, focusing instead on personal sharing from friends and family.
For users who are actively looking for news, the changes to their Facebook news feed may leave them wanting more. That could provide a small boost for Twitter.
Overall, Pew's survey results are trending in the wrong direction for Twitter. The competition is getting stronger (more users, more features) while Twitter's efforts fail to move it forward. As a company that will rely more on increasing user engagement to grow its ad revenue, that's bad for Twitter and its investors.