54 percent of adult online users regularly use WhatsApp and about every second Facebook (51%) and YouTube (49%). Thus, the reach of the messenger service “WhatsApp” exceeds that of the social networking platform “Facebook” this year. This confirms the tendency of the increasing use of metering services6. Communication here usually takes place in closed communication rooms and is perceived as private. Especially with young users, this rising trend at the expense of community platforms seems to go to Facebook.7

Although many online users use social media, they play a comparatively minor role in the context of news usage. The largest share among the relevant social media offers Facebook has. Almost one in four adult online users say in 2017 that they regularly read or watch Facebook on FaceBook, compared to 26.7 percent last year. WhatsApp will be used in 2017 by a good 12 percent for current information about world affairs and just under 14 percent use YouTube. All other services are used by less than 5 percent of adult Internet users in Germany to keep themselves up to date with information about intelligence. At this point, it should be remembered that the sample consists of an online access sample, which due to the high affinity for the internet and social media, probably even overestimates the usage behavior compared to the total population in these areas.

Facebook is most relevant to users under the age of 34 in the context of news. In the older user groups, ages 35 and older, the proportion of those who are in contact with news on this platform also drops significantly. With other services such as Twitter or YouTube, hardly any age effect can be observed. There is a tendency in every age group to have a small share among Internet users, who also receive information via social media, but the majority of online users use it for other purposes.

Political offers follow

In total, 43 percent of the respondents stated that they searched, viewed, read, shared or even discussed about a current news topic on one of the requested services. Of the users who have come in contact with news on one of these social networking platforms or within a messenger, 25 percent say they are following a politician or a political party. This corresponds to a share of almost 11 percent, if one considers the adult online as a whole. Among the users who are more politically left-leaning, the 48 percent share is almost twice as high as among those who tend towards the political center (25 percent). Among the Internet users, who are more in line with the right-wing political spectrum, the proportion is above average at 28 percent. Obviously, it is very clear that the users are mainly followed by parties or politicians who follow their own orientation.

Those who follow a party or a politician most often state that they like this party or politician (43%). The reasons given in the following three places refer more or less to criticism of the news media. To hear the views of the party or the politician directly and not mediated by third parties, is for 37 percent a key reason to follow this in social media. The unfair news coverage and the position to get more information from social media than from the news media is correct for 26 percent each.

Active participation

Active participation in news reporting on the Internet remains in the hands of a minority of adult online users. The vast majority of Internet users do not engage in commentary on news or sharing or posting content on news sites or on social media sites. The most frequently chosen option of participation in the context of news is “I like it.” Fourteen percent of online users over the age of 18 express their approval, with only ten percent of respondents sharing and eight percent commenting on articles in social media The share is equally low among both the younger and the older respondents, but more active is the group of 18 to 24 year olds when it comes to articles in closed communication spaces Twenty percent of respondents online at that age do so on a regular basis, such as through WhatsApp or other messenger services.

Accordingly, age hardly has any influence on who actively participates in news reporting on the Internet and who does not. Greater differences, on the other hand, can be identified against the background of political orientation. Articles are more likely to be “like” (23%) or shared (21%) than people from the political center (like: 14%; share: 11%) or people who associate themselves with the left political spectrum with a more right-wing orientation (like: 14%, share: 10%) Participation in surveys on news sites or on social media is more popular among online-minded people (23%) than in other political camps Social media, on the other hand, is more prevalent among both those with a left-leaner (14%) and those with a more right-wing political outlook (12%) than among those more likely to be in the political arena recognize when commenting on news websites.