2 Reasons Why People Trust News from Facebook More than Google

This post is by Steven Duque from Living in the Future. He is a new contributor to Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

Within a week, online intelligence agency Hitwise reported two big wins for Facebook over Google (NASDAQ:GOOG): a full week of heavier traffic and a higher loyalty rate of news junkies who get their news through either portal.

Facebook’s first triumph comes at no fault of Google’s, whose traffic increased by 9% over the same period last year. Facebook’s traffic, in contrast, nearly tripled, joining fellow social media giant MySpace as one of two sites who have ousted Google from the position of most trafficked site for a full week (last done in September 2007).

Of the Facebook’s second triumph over Google, Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins writes,

“Hitwise data indicate that visitors from Facebook.com are more loyal to News and Media websites than are visitors from News.Google.com. In particular, among the top 5 Print Media websites in the week ending March 6, 2010, 78% of Facebook.com users were returning visitors compared to 67% from Google News. The figures are almost identical for Broadcast Media, with a 77% returning rate for Facebook.com compared to 64% for Google News.”

Returning visitors prefer news provided through Facebook over Google. For example, 81% of visits to CNN.com in the week to March 6, 2010 were returning visitors while 84% of visitors to CNN.com that came from Facebook.com were returning visitors and 72% from Google News were returning visitors.

Though this may seem surprising at first glance, a closer look at a couple different aspects of either site, I think, reveals why this outcome is natural, if not obvious.

2 Characteristics to Consider: Facebook versus Google News

  1. Fan Pages & News Feeds: Facebook fan pages are the perfect way for media outlets to consistently reach a targeted, interested audience with their content. Not only is membership opt-in, but new content posted to a given page is streamed into fans’ News Feeds. The only similar offering that Google provides is Buzz, which is a comparatively cluttered, less user-friendly experience in its current form.
  2. The Variety of Google News: What makes Google News so appealing to me (and other news junkies, I assume) is that it provides myriad, varied sources that cover the same topic. In other words, there are always a lot of choices on Google News. It’s no wonder, then, that readers are choosing major media outlets less frequently through Google News. In fact, I think it’s a testament to the strength of major media outlets’ brands that they attract so many loyal followers through Google News, despite the available choices.

Beyond structural characteristics, I think it’s also fair to say that context matters. In an online environment surrounded by friends, users are more susceptible to make choices that are consistent with ‘loyal’ behavior. While this may seem like a stretch, considerable research in advertising reveals that cognitive priming of context does, indeed, affect how messages are received.

On that note, I’ll end this post with a funny but relevant cartoon about social media that I came across. Enjoy, and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below …