While most Americans say they first heard the news of Osama bin Laden's death from television, a substantial proportion of young people instead learned of the event by networking.
Nearly half (47 percent) of those under age 35 reported in a survey that they first heard about the killing of bin Laden Sunday from television, while one in five (21 percent) said they got the news from the Internet, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
In distinguishing between broadcast TV news and cable television news, however, neither form finished far ahead of social networking sites. Fourteen percent of the young demographic learned of bin Laden's death through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, compared with 19 percent who heard it on network news and 17 percent who heard it over cable news.
Among older age groups, far more people heard about bin Laden's death from television ― about 59 percent of those ages 35 to 64, compared with 9 percent of that age bracket who heard from the Internet.
Among those ages 65 and older, 74 percent first heard the news on television, and just 3 percent from any online news source.
The growing number of people spending time on social networking sites raises the question of whether these platforms someday will start to push out alerts about breaking news.
However, Scott Campbell, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan, said this is unlikely.
"What makes social media distinct is that the content flows from the users rather than a centralized hub," Campbell told TechNewsDaily. "Having traditional broadcast news 'pushed' on users from a wire service goes a bit against the spirit of social media."
Traditional broadcast media will continue to have an important role in social media, he predicted.
"When users post links to news stories, it helps the news go viral quickly," Campbell said. "What's unique about social media is that members are connected to each other on a mass level, allowing for both individual and collective voices to be heard when breaking news happens."