WhatsApp has emerged as the top social platform for sharing news, which is starting to rival Facebook. According to Digital News Report 2017, which conducted the research in 30 countries and five continents, the use of WhatsApp for news has “jumped significantly” in the last year. WhatsApp at 15 per cent is followed by Facebook Messenger, which is used by 8 per cent of people for news. Snapchat and Viber stand at 2 per cent, while WeChat for news is used by 1 per cent of total users on the platform. Apple News, is only available in the US, UK, and Australia – is used by around 25 per cent of iPhone users.
Further, the report points out that 51 per cent people have used WhatsApp for sharing news in a given week in Malaysia, but only 3 per cent in the US. Nic Newman, Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism attributes WhatsApp’s growth as news platform to factors like price, and privacy.
“Price is also a factor, with free WhatsApp use often bundled in with phone contracts. Many of these apps also offer encryption, which is particularly relevant for communication in markets where it can be dangerous to share politically sensitive information,” reads the report. WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger are quite popular for sharing news in Hong Kong given the apps offers end-to-end encryption.
The report also highlights the issue of ‘fake news’, according to which only 24 per cent of people think that social media is doing a good job of separating fact from fiction. Things like lack of rules and viral algorithms help in spreading ‘fake news’ quickly. However, people tend to hold mainstream media responsible for distrust as people still consume a vast majority of the news from mainstream media, the report suggests.
Snapchat’s Discover section has emerged as one of the major mobile aggregators for younger (18-24 years) audience. Discover has seen a significant growth, as the platform doubled usage with its target group last year. “This has been driven by more prominent placement in the app and allowing users to subscribe directly to Discover content from individual publishers,” the report reads. Discover offers content from publishers like Le Monde, CNN and the Wall Street Journal.
Interestingly the study does not mention India, where WhatsApp has emerged as the most popular app. WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India, and it has also become a tool for spreading fake news, rumours, as well as news in the country.