Our fourth annual State of the Media Report provides an analysis of the media industry and its struggles and innovations, while offering a broader look at how social media has impacted media professionals.
The social media boom influenced the media industry’s digital revolution, serving as a tool for journalists and news organizations to solidify brands, promote bylines, seek out sources, and communicate with readers, listeners and viewers. As traditional practices wane, new technologies and social media offer a strong future as the industry evolves.
Vocus surveyed journalists across all mediums, and found media professionals still prefer to receive pitches through email, although there are exceptions. When asked on which platform respondents prefer to receive social media pitches, 31 percent said Facebook. Overall, only 5 percent of respondents actually prefer being pitched through social media.
Meanwhile, 52 percent of respondents said they use social media for content promotion first, with research coming in second. Facebook and Twitter are the top social media platforms, but YouTube LinkedIn and Google+ are also fairly popular.
The first and second parts of this report focus on media professionals’ relationship with social media. The third part focuses on traditional media itself. An overview of that section shows that more than 100 newspapers folded in 2012, while the majority of the newspapers that launched were online. Digital-first has become a mantra among many print news organizations undergoing a transformation that includes less print, more digital and a focus on reader engagement.
More than 160 magazines launched in 2012 with less than 100 closing, but all media continues to progress toward digital forms. This includes Newsweek, which became an entirely digital publication in 2012.
Today we see news outlets like CNN and Mashable comingling as news-sharing and company mergers grow increasingly common. And although the tablet revolution may not have singlehandedly saved the magazine industry, it has created a new platform for consumption of all media types.
Networks such as Fox, NBC and Univision continue to target a Hispanic or Spanish-language audience. Meanwhile, terrestrial radio listening is on the decline as iPhones, iPods and hand-held devices dominate in-car listening.
All mediums continue to cut costs where they can. However, from the need to advance with the times, new models of media have emerged. And with new models, there has been a growth in communication as tools like social media are embraced.
Media outlets have been adopting social media initiatives into news models since social became fashionable several years ago. Since then, social media gained traction, becoming a valuable tool that media professionals cannot ignore.
Although Twitter and Facebook remain the two most popular social media platforms for journalists to use, others such as Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and Reddit are not to be discounted. From breaking news on Twitter to maximizing brand presence on Facebook, each medium has found different ways to capitalize on the dynamic instrument social media has become. David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group, believes social media has given newspapers a power that only television and radio had previously: the ability to “break in” and report the news immediately.
Social media also gives journalists the capacity to create a brand for themselves. Media professionals use social media to promote their content, link to their colleagues’ content, and post related beat coverage.
“It is very effective if journalists are providing a service, like breaking news or interesting and funny observations. It helps build their personal brands with readers. It makes them ‘must-reads’ on a regular basis,” said Coates. With more than 500 million registered users on Twitter and more than 1 billion on Facebook, social media helps media professionals draw traffic and maximize page views through the cultivation of followers and loyal readers.
Social media is also used to supplement coverage. For instance, some professionals give blow-by-blows of events and trials. Television stations include feedback from social media in newscasts, noted Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group.
“It is also fair to say that most stations now reach out to their audiences to seek out story ideas, to get viewer feedback on an array of topics and to find people in the public who are affected by various news events for possible interviews,” said Holley. “Social media has been a gold mine for TV because it is cheap to use, easy to implement technologically speaking (short and easy set-up time), and viewers want to be part of the conversation.”
Engagement has become a significant reason that many journalists choose to employ social media regularly. Social media gives readers and viewers a way to connect on a more personal level with the journalists covering their communities. Journalists know this, and are using social media to grow relationships, sources and reach.
“Almost all magazines have a social media presence, be it a Facebook page, Twitter handle or other network. Magazines create these presences because too many readers/individuals use social media regularly for the publications to ignore the opportunity to directly interact with their audiences,” said Tayne Kim, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group.
Interaction between the media and their audience has become so easy through social media that it has begun to replace “man-on-the-street” interviews, at least within the radio industry world, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group. Disc jockeys and radio hosts can easily pose a question on Twitter, Facebook or on the air, and elicit response through social media channels. “I don’t see social media supplanting what’s being done now, but rather being used to support the current system and allow for immediate response and feedback,” he said.
Because social media provides journalists an alternative way to research and connect with sources, PR professionals need to make sure more than ever to supply journalists with the materials they require to pursue a lead. “Control the message. Interact with the journalists. Follow them, comment on their stories and suggest story ideas. As always, know your audience and that of the journalist,” said Holley
To better understand the relationship media professionals have with social media, Vocus surveyed journalists on a range of activities from social media use to pitching preferences.
Respondents primarily work at local outlets, with regional and national respondents almost split.
The survey suggests that social media is very relevant to media professionals, with most respondents using it for reporting “very frequently.”
It’s no surprise that Twitter and Facebook are the most popular platforms. Twitter, especially, makes it easy to search and connect for information on a topic or person.
While many journalists are using social media for research, only about 20 percent find it “extremely useful.” Meanwhile, 37 percent find it “extremely useful” for content promotion
Although our survey tells us that most journalists actively use social media, they don’t all use it the same way or wish to be pitched story ideas through it. In fact, our survey indicates that journalists prefer to be pitched via email
“Complaints about social media pitching range from vague or inappropriate topics to improper grammar,” said Kim. “Certainly, complaints to do with grammar (as an example) demonstrate laziness or at least the informal way pitches via these platforms may be treated.”
Other complaints about social media pitching included missing information due to the real-time nature of Twitter:
Community newspaper editor: “No, they get lost too easily. Phone calls or emails are still the best communication tool.”
Meanwhile, others were on the fence:
National online/digital magazine reporter: “It depends on whether I know the person pitching the story, or their affiliation.”
Despite a high percentage of respondents being against social media pitching, those who favor social media as a communication tool are at least open to pitches:
Community newspaper managing editor: “Sure. Resistance is futile. Knee-jerk reaction is to ask to limit it to email, but any medium will
inevitably be used for any message it can carry, including content promotion. There’s no sense resisting a story pitch due to the horse it rode in on; it should be evaluated on its merits.”
Community TV reporter: “Yes, I have picked up stories from social media already and been able to complement other stories using them.”
Community newspaper features reporter: “Depending on the story pitch and whether it fits my product. I receive a lot of junk email for product placements I can’t use and I don’t want to fill up my Twitter or Facebook account with that kind of junk.”
Generally, the media professionals that responded to the survey view social media as a positive addition to journalism. But many agree that journalists need to be as vigilant as ever and double-check facts, since it is harder to verify information on social media
Local/Community, TV: “Great tool that makes some investigation faster but still need to double-check with traditional sources. Makes covering ongoing stories easier, with ample feedback from public and you can inform multiple publics at the same time.”
National, Online Magazine/Blog: “I tend to think of it the same way I think of Wikipedia. That is, it can be extremely useful, and it can come in very handy. It can also come through quite nicely in a pinch. But if you’re not careful (to double- and triple-check your facts; to vet your sources, etc.,), you could also end up really stepping it in, and making a fool of yourself
I think the key is remembering that while social media is a very strong and helpful tool, it’s not really a shortcut or a time-saver for the journalist, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. The reporter who treats it as a shortcut will eventually find himself in a real mess
Social media is one more tool to add to your reporting kit, and that’s a wonderful thing. And actually, it’s about a dozen different tools, since many of the sites are helpful in very different ways. If you think of it that way, I think you’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, some respondents focused on its role as a tool for engagement:
Local/Community, Radio: “I have mixed feelings about all of it. I think in a way it’s hurting traditional media because with immediate access to the Internet, there really is no need for print newspapers. On the other hand, it also helps because it adds more to a story. Readers can interact with things online that they see in print that can enhance a story.”
Local/Regional, Online Newspaper: “Any journalist not on Twitter is cheating him or herself. It’s good for promotion and for learning about news. I tend to use Facebook for more personal things, but will promote stories through it (via a Twitter sync). Both can also draw you closer to readers.”
Ultimately, the results of the survey verify what we already know: social media is viewed as a tool to be used with the proper respect and wariness. “Most agree it’s helpful, and some say it’s essential, but it’s still an extension of and not a replacement for what they already do,” said Johnson
Social media has become a significant resource for journalists to share their stories, promote their brand, and become closer to their audience. But despite its power for broadening communication, most journalists do not want to be pitched story ideas in this manner
There are exceptions, of course. The best way to approach a journalist is to simply ask which way they prefer to be contacted. And keep in mind the old rules always apply
“When utilizing social media, use the same strategies you have in the past. Story pitches need to be timely and should typically have an angle that ties them into topics that are already considered highly newsworthy,” said Holley. “You should still search for specific journalists who cover the topics you are trying to pitch so you can target them via social media and through an email pitch.”
If the last several years have proven anything about the newspaper industry, it is that being open to experimentation is the way to survive. But despite innovations like paywalls, newsroom cafés, cutting print frequency, and even e-book publishing, some newspapers still can’t cut it
152 newspapers folded in 2012. Ninety-one of those newspapers were weekly papers and 34 of them were online. MLive Media Group closed seven papers from its Community Newspapers publishing group, while Patch.com merged sites, closing 25
Online continues to dominate newspaper launches with 74 of the 90 newspaper launches being online. Once again, the majority of launches were Patch.com sites. Ultimately, AOL launched more Patch sites than were merged. Nine weekly, four monthly and three daily newspapers also launched
One of the biggest stories in 2012 was Advance Publications’ decision to shift the New Orleans Times-Picayune to digital. As a result, a number of staff were laid off and the paper cut its print frequency from daily to three times a week. The changes at the Times-Picayune made New Orleans the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper. The Baton Rouge Advocate quickly filled the print news gap, however, by launching a daily New Orleans edition, stealing away many bitter subscribers from the Times-Picayune.
Advance also cut frequency at the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and the Press Register in Alabama, the Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., and the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Cutting print frequency is a logical way to cut costs, noted Coates
“Is this the wave of the future and is Advance ahead of the curve? Probably,” Coates said. “Advance Publications newspapers don’t have a paywall, but you have to wonder if one isn’t on the horizon, considering other newspapers aren’t giving away content.” So far in 2013, Advance has announced the creation of Syracuse Media Group, which will act as a digital-first initiative of the Post-Standard and signals a solid departure from traditional practices
digital trends in 2012 was the Orange County Register, purchased from Freedom Communications by Aaron Kushner this past summer. Since he’s taken over as owner and publisher, the paper went on an editorial hiring spree, beefing up existing print sections and adding additional sections while reportedly readying the site for a paywall in early 2013. Although a digital subscription doesn’t challenge any current industry-wide developments, the focus on print and the addition of new employees is practically unheard of in the current media landscape
Meanwhile, paywalls continue to be a trend within the newspaper industry as publishing groups such as MediaNews Group and Gannett continue to unroll subscription plans. “Just over a year ago we were wondering how the New York Times paywall, which failed miserably in its first attempt from 2005 to 2007, would work when it was implemented again. The answer was a resounding, ‘very well, thank you,’” said Coates. Reports claim the New York Times circulation revenue surpassed its advertising revenue in 2012
As a result of the paywall success at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post is rumored to be putting up a paywall in 2013. “This is big news because for years the Post prided itself on not forcing its readers to have to pay extra to view its content online. Paywalls are an important part of a newspaper’s business model. Remember the old adage for college professors of ‘publish or perish?’ Well it now seems like newspapers need to ‘paywall or perish,’” said Coates
Hand-held devices have given newspapers, along with every other news medium, a new outlet to create revenue and be seen. But we learned in 2012 that launching a tablet-only newspaper doesn’t necessarily spell success
Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily shuttered less than two years after it launched. Despite being visually appealing, it didn’t provide enough news or niche to be sustainable. Like all other innovations in the media, experimentation is key
Digital magazines showed a gradual increase in 2012, mirroring a slow growth in print magazines. 165 magazines debuted, with 97 print and 68 online launches. There were 30 fewer launches this past year, compared to 195 in 2011
Titles that hit newsstands in 2012 included Scene Magazine, Du Jour, Herd, and the trade magazine RetailerNow. Online magazines that debuted included NEMountainSports. com, 49er Insider and Quartz, which received press for its unique and forward-thinking business model. Features of Quartz include a tablet-first focus and a staff of top, veteran reporters. Instead of beats, the site covers what the creators of the new organization have called “phenomena.” The site is free to readers, but supports sponsored content as a fundamental part of its model
Although launches slowed in 2012, magazine closures also decreased. In 2011, there were 124 total magazines shuttered. In 2012, including print, online and digital magazines, approximately 81 magazines closed. Closures included Nintendo Power Magazine, Real Eats and NFL Magazine. Meanwhile, 25 magazines went online-only, including SmartMoney and Newsweek
Despite Newsweek’s digital transition, Kim noted that the magazine is struggling to meet digital subscription goals, relying too much on ad revenue. “Its sister publication, the Daily Beast, is doing well as a digital-only product because it began with a smaller audience than Newsweek had with their print circulation. The latter’s audience being too big to sustain when it decided to move to a digital-only format,” he said.
In February 2013, the Newsweek Daily Beast Company changed its name to NewsBeast, possibly hinting at future collaborations between the two digital publications.
Hearst Magazines also struggled to meet digital subscription goals in 2012. Expecting to reach 1 million subscriptions through partnerships with iTunes, Zinio, Nook, Amazon, and Next Issue Media, the publishing group only ended up reaching 800,000 from November 2011 to the end of 2012.
Publishers are positive though, noted Kim. “More than 80 percent of Hearst’s digital subscribers are newcomers, rather than print-to-digital migrants. So while digital magazines aren’t growing in popularity as fast as some analysts thought, there is indication of an emerging demand for magazines on tablets and smartphones,” he said
Despite magazines finding new life on hand-held devices like the Kindle or iPad, Kim noted publishers need to create new value and demand for digital editions to attract advertisers and subscribers. “It’s easy to see why publishers rely heavily on online ad revenue. It’s a billiondollar industry that helps alleviate the steady decline of print ads,” he said
A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau said the online ad industry earned 17 billion in the first half of 2012 - up 14 percent from the first half of 2011
Magazines that stood out in 2012 included Quartz and the New Republic, which has been reinvented by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. “While many magazines are struggling to survive, these publications have been reinvented and launched with a vision,” said Kim
Although there were no major shifts within the television industry, previously seen patterns remain consistent. Weekend jobs, for example, are increasingly being phased out at television stations
Instead, weekday anchors and meteorologists are scheduled Sunday through Thursday with another person working Tuesday through Saturday. In this way, the station cuts costs by eliminating the need for a third person and two people still work the weekends, noted Holley
Another continuing trend is the prevalence of Spanish-language initiatives. The Fox Network launched “Mundo Fox” in August, while NBC launched a new website, NBCLatino. Univision and ABC plan to launch a new network targeting English-speaking Hispanics in the U.S. “This probably indicates they are trying to target the younger demographics of the second and third generation Hispanics, who now speak more English than they do Spanish,” said Holley
Meanwhile, the content sharing agreements we saw in 2011 continue. For example, Wilmington, N.C.’s WSFX-TV and WECT-TV share newscasts. But Holley predicts these agreements will become less common as the economy stabilizes and commercial sales go up
Washington, D.C., jumped a spot in its Designated Market Area (DMA), trading places with Atlanta. The populations are relatively equal and both fluctuate, so the cities have switched spots several times in the last 10 years, noted Holley
Slowly recovering from Hurricane Katrina is New Orleans, which has gradually climbed back up in DMA rankings. Following the storm, a large portion of the population shifted from New Orleans to other cities across the country, changing the DMAs radically, she said. New Orleans dropped a whopping 11 points from 43 to 54 indicating a loss of hundreds of thousands of residents. This year the city inched back to 51
“It doesn’t seem that dramatic, but three markets is a big deal in that the higher you go – or rather the closer you move towards number one – the more a station can charge for commercials. And it means an increased demand from national advertisers to broadcast their commercials, meaning an increase in revenue,” said Holley
Television stations have also begun to embrace mobile apps. Many stations have been utilizing mobile and its possibilities through the services of “backpack” reporters for some time. Now, stations are increasingly offering content to viewers through mobile apps. Typically, these apps include top news stories and weather updates.
“I would not call it widespread, but it is increasingly popular. Television is slow to adapt to new technology. They will not invest in the ‘next new thing’ until they are absolutely sure its adoption is widespread. Statistics show that Americans are increasingly turning to their smartphones more than PCs, television and other forms of communications. So, I am sure we will continue to see growth in this area by news stations,” said Holley
Despite estimates from Arbitron that more than 92 percent of the U.S. population listens to radio on a weekly basis, terrestrial radio has become stagnant, noted Johnson. “The majority of Americans still report listening to AM/FM radio on a weekly basis, but interest in traditional radio overall is in decline,” he said.
Whereas terrestrial may not be doing so well, a study by TargetSpot says Internet radio listenership is on the rise, especially in people aged 18 to 21. “And nearly half those young adults say they spent less time listening to terrestrial radio than they did last year,” said Johnson
AM radio specifically has been losing listeners, while Talk formats, including Sports, are increasingly moving to FM. In fact, News/Talk is the second most popular radio format after Country, which is currently the top format
In-car listening used to be where terrestrial radio ruled, but now the car is one of the primary ways people listen to digital radio, either through an iPod, smartphone or other hand-held digital device. “There is lots of buzz about the ‘connected car,’ and app-enabled dashboards boosting in-car listening,” Johnson said
Mobile devices have heavily influenced radio listenership. According to TargetSpot, there was an 87 percent increase in tablet ownership among radio listeners and a 22 percent increase in smartphone ownership
“This suggests these devices may in part be responsible for the increased listenership,” Johnson said. “Technology can potentially be an advantage or a detriment to radio, depending on whether the industry tries to compete with it or embrace it. Only those who use technology to advance and enhance what they do will be successful.”
Ultimately, radio is transforming as much as any other news medium. It is also not lacking in unexpected partnerships. One such meeting of minds occurred when Nielsen agreed to buy Arbitron, uniting two of the best known measurement companies in television and radio, noted Johnson
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