Social media has overtaken television for the first time as young people's main source of news, according to a study.
Figures released by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism showed that globally half (51%) of all online users surveyed said they used social media as a news source, with one in 10 saying it was their main method.
The number of young people, aged between 18 and 24, who said they used social media as their main news source had surpassed those who watched news on television, at 28% compared with 24%.
The report suggested that sites such as Facebook are increasingly influential in the distribution of news content.
The online study, which surveyed around 50,000 people, found 44% of online users across 26 countries said they used Facebook to read, watch, share and comment on news, more than double its nearest rival YouTube on 19% and well above Twitter on 10%.
In Ireland, the major findings highlight the widespread use of smartphones, the growth of news on social media, and the rise of ad blockers.
More than half of Irish consumers (52%) now get their news from social media sites.
Facebook is Ireland’s most popular social media site with 71% using it regularly and 45% using it as a source of news.
Participation in online news is also high in Ireland with 72% frequently rating, sharing and commenting on online news stories.
However, only 23% of Irish consumers notice the news brands responsible for content on social media.
As sales of printed newspapers continue to fall, 71% of Irish consumers are unwilling to pay for online news. Among those who do currently pay for news, 49% pay less than €50 a year.
The widespread availability of free news in the global English-language market is a notable influence on payment rates. No English-speaking country has a news payment rate of more than 10%.
While 42% of consumers say they are willing to view ads in return for free access to news, more than half of Irish consumers (54%) find adverts on news sites intrusive.
Among the 26 nations surveyed, Ireland has the fifth highest level of ad blocker use at 30%. More than half of 18-24s use some form of ad blocker.
TV news remains the most popular platform for accessing news in Ireland at 73%; although this is down 3% from 2015. Radio remains the first point of daily contact with news for 39% of consumers.
Among morning smartphone users (21%), 50% find news on social media sites while 30% go direct to a news app or news website.
Only a quarter (24%) of international respondents say they access online news video with Irish people (28%) more inclined to watch video news than many European peers.
However, those who do not regularly watch news video identify technical issues (46%), the convenience of reading (39%), and a dislike of pre-roll adverts (24%) as factors.
Editor of breakingnews.ie, Jill O'Sullivan said: "We're delighted to see an 8% growth in audience since last year.
"We have seen phenomenal growth in our Facebook audience in the last 12 months and recently passed 400,000 likes on our Facebook page, as well as winning a Sockie award for Facebook strategy among media organisations.
"Our success on social media has been a crucial factor in helping us to drive more traffic to breakingnews.ie.
"We have also seen our mobile audience growing significantly in the year. That trend is continuing with the introduction of Google AMP and Facebook's Instant Articles."
Digital Editor of irishexaminer.com, Dolan O'Hagan said: "This report is a hugely welcome addition to the debate around the future direction of the Irish media landscape and the importance of original journalism as an essential and central plank of our democracy.
"Undocumented in the report, however, is the fact that with regard to digital penetration by the major digital brands, Landmark media's flagship titles, irishexaminer.com and breakingnews.ie, when combined account for the second largest media presence in the country with a digital penetration of 37%.
"That leaves the two major Landmark media titles second only behind RTE.ie and ahead of Independent/Herald online, journal.ie and the Irish Times online when it comes to weekly digital penetration and engagement.
"That is a huge success story for a media company based outside the capital.
"We thank our ever growing audience base in every county of Ireland for granting us that privilege."
In the global edition of the institute's Digital News Report, it was shown that users noticed the original news brand behind social media content less than half the time, while the use of mobile phones as the main way to access news had overtaken computers and laptops in the UK for the first time.
The rise of social media platforms for consuming news and the move to mobile was "undermining" the business models of publishers of quality news, the report added.
Reuters Institute director of research Rasmus Kleis Nielsen said: "The move towards a more distributed environment offers publishers opportunities to reach new audiences on an unprecedented scale, but as people increasingly access news via third party platforms, it will become harder and harder for most publishers to stand out from the crowd, connect directly with users, and make money.
"This development will leave some winners, and many losers."
The report found women and young people were less likely to visit a news site or app directly.
In the UK, the number of people who said they were using their mobiles to access news rose from 42% to 46%, with 16% using it first thing in the morning.
Of those, 48% still went through a news website or app, compared with 33% who use social media.
Lead author Nic Newman said: "The move to smartphone goes hand-in-hand with the move to distributed content. Mobile users increasingly find news coming to them through social media feeds, alerts and notifications."
Meanwhile, weekly tablet usage fell in line with global trends and video news was not growing as fast as expected, with only 26% of respondents saying they access online news video in a week.
Traditional newspaper brands still lead the way in producing most of the digital content, followed by broadcasters and digital sites such as Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, the institute said.