Sep 20, 2017 / in Comms Best Practices / by Annemaria Nicholson

An important aspect of the PR and marketing professions is to understand the behavior and interests of stakeholders and publics that we serve. The recently released Cision 2017 Global Social Journalism Study takes a deep dive into how journalists approach and use social media. As journalists are asked to do more in the digital realm with fewer resources, the opportunity for PR professionals to be a trusted resource to journalists increases when we understand their specific needs.

The Cision Global Social Journalism Study has a lot of insightful, actionable data about how journalists use social media and their perceptions of social tools. In this post, I want to discuss the study’s insight into how journalists use social media: specifically, that publishing, distributing and promoting content are key drivers of social media use and activity. PR professionals and marketers need to understand journalist’s motivations to use these platforms to be better resources, perhaps as well to use social media similarly to support their own content marketing efforts.

Publishing Content

Between the 2012 and 2017 iterations of the Cision Global Social Journalism Study, there was a 12 percent increase in the number of journalists that said that they post content to social media platforms daily. While we may think of long-form content when we think of journalists, there is actually a lot of creative short-form content posted to social sites.

A great example of short-form content is this Instagram post by The Guardian, U.S. Data Editor, Mona Chalabi:

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 1.24.48 PM.png

Journalists also share opinions/insights in short-form.

There are also unique long-form decentralized content pieces published to sites such as Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News and LinkedIn publishing, although there isn’t a lot of data describing how much content on these sites is unique versus republished. There is also some innovative content published on sites such as National Geographic’s Instagram combining longer-form with compelling images:

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of how journalists are using social media with increased frequency as a publishing platform. As for why so many journalists are compelled to publish more frequently online, this probably correlates with the audience growth of social news consumers demonstrated by Pew Internet:

Growth in use of social media for news

Distributing Content

In the 2017 Global Social Journalism Study, 75 percent of journalists describe social media as “completely” or “to a large extent” necessary to promote and distribute content. This is a pretty harrowing statistic about the influence of social media on our everyday lives. For the sake of this post, we’ll consider the distribution of content as a subscription action (although there are many aspects of publishing, distribution and promotion that overlap). You may “Like” or “Follow” a publisher or a journalist on any social network, and their work would be pushed out to you when published.

An example of this would be a recent article on The Intercept, distributed on Twitter:

Another example would be VICE Producer, Gianna Toboni’s Facebook post of one of her pieces:

2017-08-16 04_57_26-Gianna Toboni.png

Organic distribution via subscription social media is erratic at best due to filtering and algorithms, which is why promotion is a likewise integral aspect of a journalist’s social media use.

Promoting Content

In the Cision Global Social Journalism Study, 66 percent of journalists reported that they engage with readers at least daily. And while we normally discuss promotion on social media as a function of promoted posts, engagement and redistribution are ways that journalists promote their content organically on social platforms.

Kara Swisher of Recode is an example of a very high-frequency engager, responding to unsolicited comments as well as comments on her published articles:

MSNBC’s Ari Melber demonstrates the same type of engagement, interjecting some humor (demonstrating an appreciation for Jidenna in the process):

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 1.26.32 PM.png

The Cision study suggests that a journalist’s mix of content, publishing and promotion may depend on many factors such as vertical, age, and social archetype (which we’ll discuss more in detail in future posts).


One of the great aspects of periodic research like the Cision 2017 Global Social Journalism Study is that it demonstrates the extent of how perceptions and actions change over time. It’s clear both that digital consumption of news and other content is increasing, and journalists are using social media in a correlative fashion.

What this iteration of the Global Social Journalism Study demonstrates is that the roles and responsibilities of journalists are changing, and are increasingly reliant on social platforms for publishing, distributing and promoting content. It is incumbent on all PR and marketing professionals to understand digital’s demand and utility to journalists and to try to be resources for journalists where we can.


Download our 2021 State of the Media Report for the latest trends and findings.


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About Annemaria Nicholson

I drive go-to-market strategy for content, social media and community at Cision, an earned media software intelligence company. I engage, educate and inspire audiences with interactive and multimedia projects that serve all areas of the funnel and have experience scaling content programs globally to drive brand awareness, leads and revenue for the business. I revolutionized Cision’s outbound promotion efforts to amplify its inbound lead generation results by creating a multichannel campaign strategy that promotes discoverability, search rank, audience awareness, credibility, and ultimately more topline revenue growth. I also helped with our rebrand and watched Cision go public in 2017, and our blog program was honored in 2018 by PR Daily.