Earlier this summer, a Google exec admitted that TikTok was eating into its core Search business, particularly among younger users. But that’s not all TikTok is now being used for, a new Pew Research Center study indicates. According to the findings from a report that examined Americans’ use of social media for news consumption, 33% of TikTok users now say they regularly get their news on the social video app, up from just 22% in 2020.
Meanwhile, nearly every other social media site saw declines across that same metric — including, in particular, Facebook, where now only 44% of its users report regularly getting their news there, down from 54% just two years ago.
This data suggests TikTok has grown from being just an entertainment platform for lip syncs, dances, and comedy to one that many of its users turn to in order to learn about what’s happening in their world.
That may raise concerns, given TikTok’s connections to China — a topic it was recently pressed to clarify in a Senate hearing focused on national security. The hearing had followed the release of a BuzzFeed News report that had discovered how China-based ByteDance employees had been regularly accessing TikTok’s U.S. users’ private data.
If TikTok were to become one of the primary ways younger people in the U.S. learned about news and current events, then the app could potentially provide a channel for a foreign power to influence those users’ beliefs with subtle tweaks to its algorithm.
For the time being, however, TikTok is not a primary source of news consumption across social media — that honor still resides with Facebook.
Pew found that 31% of U.S. adults report regularly getting their news from Facebook, which is higher than the 25% who get their news from YouTube, the 14% who get it from Twitter, or the13% who get it from Instagram.
TikTok was in fifth place by this ranking, as only 10% of U.S. adults said they regularly get their news on the video app. (Of course, when TikTok’s sizable user base of those under the age of 18 grows up, these metrics could quickly change.)
LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), Nextdoor (4%), WhatsApp (3%) and Twitch (1%) were much smaller sources of news among Americans, the study also found.
In addition, Pew somewhat backed up Google’s assertion that it was losing traction to TikTok and other social media apps, as it noted that the percentage of U.S. adults who often got their news via web search had dropped from 23% in 2020 to 18% in 2022.
But it didn’t necessarily point to TikTok or any other social platform as gaining, as the percentage of adults often using social media of any sort for news consumption dropped from 23% to 17% between 2020 and 2022, as did other forms of news consumption like news websites and apps.
It’s not clear that any single platform is benefiting from these declines, as Pew didn’t uncover a shift from digital news sources to others, such as TV, print or radio — all those saw declines in news consumption as well.
Still, digital devices continue to outpace TV, Pew said, as the latter has seen its usage of it often drop as a source for news consumption from 40% in 2020 to 31% in 2022.
Plus, when asked about preferences, more Americans (53%) said they would rather get their news digitally than on TV (33%), radio (7%), or print (5%) — an answer that’s stayed consistent since 2020.
Updated, 9/23/22 to add when the usage described was “often” for getting news via web, social and through digital devices, for further clarity as it relates to Pew’s questions about regular usage.