Mobile phone Credit: _dChris
Twitter "barely registers" as a news referring source according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The report, which was released today, looked at audience statistics for the top 25 news sites in the US based on figures from the Nielsen Company, assessing how users get to the sites, how long they stay during each visit, how deep they go into a site, and where they go when they leave.

Despite highlighting the growing role of social media as a competing driver of traffic, the report claimed that Twitter plays "a relatively small role in sharing of links to news sources".

Out of the top 21 sites for which there was data, Twitter was found to refer links to just nine, with all but one of those receiving around just one per cent of its total traffic from the site.

Facebook, on the other hand, is emerging as "a powerful news referring source" the report said.

According to the results, in 2010 all but one of the top sites for which there was referral data received some of its audience through Facebook.

Facebook was the second or third most important driver of traffic at five of the sites, according to the study, with Huffingtonpost.com at the top with eight per cent of its traffic from links to content posted on Facebook.

"These percentages represent only a fraction of the traffic coming from Google. But they make Facebook an influential and probably growing force," the report adds.

"As Nielsen's numbers show, few domains affect audiences this much. Now, the study suggests, Facebook is beginning to join Google as one of the most influential players in driving news audiences."

Google remained the primary entry point, accounting for 30 per cent of the traffic to the top sites on average according to the report.

Image by _dChris on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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