Facebook is first, email second, twitter third for news link sharing
Overall, around 20 per cent of UK respondents to an online poll by YouGov commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said they "share news stories each week via email or social networks". Out of that group 55 per cent said they had shared a news link via Facebook within the past week. The study found 33 per cent had shared a link to news by email and 23 per cent via Twitter.
Email was found to be a popular choice with the over 45s (51 per cent), while Facebook (71 per cent) and Twitter (24 per cent) "are the natural choice for young people" with only 10 per cent of young people sharing news by email.
"We can also see that in the UK none of the social networks are particularly significant in terms of overall volume. It is still early days for Google+, and this is not yet generating a large volume of news (6 per cent)."
The survey of online news consumers across five countries "social media is now beginning to rival search as a gateway to news in the UK".
"Twenty per cent, (one in five), now come across a news story via a social network", whereas 30 per cent use search.
"Younger people are more likely to use social media rather than search to discover news – whereas for older groups it is the other way round."
The report finds that "in general Europe lags behind the United States in both the sharing of news and other forms of digital participation".
UK respondents were also asked which routes they had used to access news, including traditional routes, TV, radio and print, and online means. Only the Guardian and Telegraph were found to have a greater percentage of people accessing via online than via print, with the Guardian's online audience being "almost twice as big as the newspaper one with a much younger age profile".
"Overall, traditional routes are still used more than online ones," the report states.
The study found that the "use of BBC via radio and television is around 10 percentage points higher than via BBC News online."
It goes onto say that "some providers have struggled to make an impact online", stating for example that "ITV is a huge player in television news but has not focused heavily on digital news until now".
When tablet owners were asked the same question about traditional and online routes to news, "proportional usage of the traditional and online sources is almost identical" for the BBC, Mail Online, Sky News.
On the subject of tablets the report states: "It appears that new technology/devices which allow for easy news access online are encouraging the growth of online access."
It states "the tablet is emerging as an important device for news consumers" and they are "more likely to pay for news content".
The study also found "propensity to pay for online news is lowest in the UK (4 per cent) compared to the other markets and highest in Denmark (12 per cent)".
Researchers also looked at how people access news via mobile and found that "in the UK, more than one in 10 (13 per cent) say their smartphones are now their main way of accessing online news".
"This figure rises to more than a quarter for the 25–34 year old age group (27 per cent). Over 55s show almost no interest in accessing news this way."
The methodology for the report, which can be found at this link, is outlined below. The total UK sample size was 2,173, plus a "tablet owner boost" of 324.
"Polling was conducted by YouGov for the Reuters Institute across five countries in April 2012.
"This is an online survey – and as such the results will under-represent older people's consumption habits, namely use of newspapers and TV.
"It also excludes people who said they are not interested in news at all which in most countries was more than 10 per cent. All countries used the same methodology to allow for valid comparisons.
"Within our sample there were targets set on age and gender, region, newspaper readership, and social grade to accurately reflect the total population who are also online."