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WhatsApp is Becoming a Much More Popular News Source

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Facebook is the undisputed king of social media news consumption, for better or for worse. The unrivalled user figures, layout and algorithmic approach all lend themselves ideally to news spreading, even if the credibility of said news is sometimes questionable. Twitter still has some weight to throw around and Snapchat is carving out a niche of its own, and now, according to one study, WhatsApp is making a run for the podium.

Reuters international and the University of Oxford surveyed over 70,000 people in 36 different countries, 15% of respondents said that they use the messaging service as a news source. Given that WhatsApp has no home page, news feed or journalistic accounts to follow, the pertinent question isn't so much 'why?', but 'how?'. As it turns out, people like to share news stories in chat groups, to the extent where doing so has become a prevalent source of information. DIY news feeds, if you will.

The percentage might seem small, but the study says that it's now the second most prevalent news source in nine different countries. In particular, 51% of Malaysian respondents said they use it, and while much of South East Asia does exist in a kind of behavioural microcosm where social media is concerned, it's still very telling.

The biggest issue with Facebook (which is actually declining in popularity for news across many nations) is that it has an automated system to decide which news items are worth your time. In that sense, it's hardly surprising that many people are instead turning to groups of people they know and trust to decide what news is worth reading. You could argue that this is an even more confined echo chamber, but all you would need to do to rectify that issue is actually talk about it, flag up the fact that there hasn't been enough challenging content. You get out what you put in.

While Facebook are scrambling to deal with the ever growing fake news issue, WhatsApp is looking more and more like a viable alternative. The same study also revealed that only some 24% of those questioned thought that social media was any good at differentiating between real news and bogus news, so who knows, we might one day be looking at a world where WhatsApp is the most reliable ticker on the market.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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WhatsApp is Becoming a Much More Popular News Source Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, June 26, 2017 Rating: 5

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