NEW YORK -- Most people don't log on to Facebook to find out the news. But it's an important news source anyway, even if incidentally, a study released Thursday indicated.
The Pew Research Center found that 47 percent of adults who use Facebook say they get news there, either through links posted by friends or news sources they follow. Still, given the social media site's popularity, that represents almost one-third of the country's adult population.
Only 4 percent of Facebook users described it as the most important way that they get news.
One-third of Facebook news consumers are adults under 30, or just the type of people less likely to turn to more traditional news sources, the study found.
Pew director Amy Mitchell said that Facebook represents a different way of consuming news. As one of the 5,173 adults who responded to Pew's survey said, "Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it."
Mitchell said there was no indication that Facebook users were spending less time seeking out news elsewhere. One-third of Facebook users said they have news organizations or individual journalists as part of their information feed.
Entertainment news is the most popular, with 73 percent of Facebook users saying they get news on that topic. Two-thirds of people said they get news from their community.
Facebook said that it has worked with several news organizations within the past year to drive more readers to their own sites. The company found that news organizations that began posting stories more regularly on Facebook saw a significant increase in traffic to their own websites, according to Justin Osofsky, a vice president for media partnerships at Facebook.
The study indicates that Facebook represents an area with much greater potential for news organizations to distribute material. But does that come with a risk of alienating people who are just there to look at pictures of their friends' kids?
"People were sort of mixed in their response to whether they wanted news in the mix," Mitchell said. "But people weren't very bothered by it."
The survey was conducted online between Aug. 21 and Sept. 2, with a research panel representative of the U.S. population. Pew said the sampling error was plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.