2013 will be remembered as the year that the media industry and social media converged.
Journalists took to their social media streams for promotion, engagement and breaking news events. During the Boston Marathon bombings, social media streams flooded with reports of live events and tragic visuals, and the media industry amplified citizens, sharing their updates with the world. Meanwhile, journalists drew criticism for not tweeting enough during the government shutdown.
In the first part of this report, the Vocus Media Research Group analyzes the findings of our annual survey of journalists. In the second part, we look at the finding that across media, the majority of journalists still don’t care to be pitched by social media and an overwhelming 90.7 percent of respondents chose email as their preferred method of contact. This doesn’t mean social media pitches are off limits. A number of journalists responded that they are open to being pitched through specific social platforms.
Twitter beat out Facebook as the preferred platform for journalists to promote themselves, while 48.5 percent of respondents said they primarily used social media to connect with their audience.
The second part of this report focuses on the state of traditional media, where more than 100 newspapers folded in 2013. However, there was a trend of established brands launching new publications in both newspapers and magazines. In the magazine industry, digital launches were common: Atlantic Media debuted Defense One; Clique Media, publisher of Who What Wear, introduced Domaine.com; the Financial Times debuted Financial Advisor IQ; and The Verge launched Need to Know. Meanwhile, online listening continues to boost radio’s numbers.
In 2013, we saw a continuation of 2012 trends, including paywalls, a digital focus, social media, and innovations where business models and advertising were concerned. A number of new television shows debuted over the year. Much of their growth came from the purchase and
relaunch of several cable networks under new branding.
Cuts and layoffs were an unfortunate fact in the industry. Numbers show this year that product growth in the traditional print media sector is not as strong as in previous years, yet new ideas endure as the media industry continues to evolve.
The media industry continues to develop new ways of embracing social media. Journalists are nurturing various platforms to promote, engage and expand reach.
Today, breaking news stories on Twitter first is a natural course of action. Monitoring social media has become an important source for newsrooms. “It’s the modern day police scanner that is in every newsroom,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group.
Social media continued to widen the scope of news for people across the country and globe, and even influences story choices with trending. It brings the ordinary person with the funny or extraordinary story into the mainstream through viral video, photo or blog post, which is then picked up by mainstream news outlets. Think of the media hit “Christmas Jammies,” a holiday family video featuring the Holderness family dancing and singing in red and green pajamas.
“This is a double-edged sword,” said Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group. “It means that sometimes pointless, silly videos make it on the air. It also means that people and issues that might never have received attention become national topics of discussion because they are picked up from social media and broadcast across the country and sometimes around the world.”
More reporters and editors are tweeting and posting, getting closer to readers, listeners and viewers. “In the past, reporters didn’t know what their readers were thinking unless they got a letter to the editor or a phone call,” Coates said. “Now readers and reporters alike know what the other is thinking almost immediately.”
The level of engagement has evolved so much through social media that radio really isn’t a one-way medium anymore, noted Kyle Johnson, managing editor of radio content at Vocus Media Research Group.
“Even the amount of reading listeners’ posts or tweets on the air has increased greatly,” said Johnson. “But beyond that [it’s about] having listeners drive the conversation and responding to questions on social media—not just inviting listeners’ questions and avoiding the questions or responses, however painful they might be.”
Johnson also noted that a study by radio broadcasting service Jelly last year found a correlation between social media engagement and ratings. Since stations can utilize social media inexpensively, he said, look for more stations to use social media strategies to bring in listeners.
Reporters use social media to find new sources, too. Looking for a source for an obscure topic or difficult story? Tweet it or post it, and chances are that a source will appear.
“Story ideas often ‘die’ on the newsroom floor because there is no one to interview to offer viewers a face to go with the events being discussed,” Holley said. “Reporters spend a portion of their day working the phones to find interviews for stories they are working on. If they have no luck, they get assigned to a new story. With social media interaction, this is changing.”
Facebook and Twitter continue to be the top social networks; Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ also remain popular choices for journalists. Tayne Kim, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group, noted two platforms to keep an eye on:
PR practitioners may find it’s harder to place stories because of social media. Though there are new outlets with blogs, surviving traditional media outlets have reduced reporting staffs. “They [PR pros] have always had to compete with breaking news and the top stories of the day,” said Holley. “They’ve also had to vie in recent years for the attention from journalists who have a worldwide Web of blogs, social media and alternative news sources at their fingertips for story ideas. Now, they have to compete with videos of cats doing tricks.”
PR campaigns appeal to journalists for all kinds of different reasons – they might be casual, funny or heartwarming. But no matter what the campaign, it’s more important than ever to connect with reporters on social, comment on their stories, offer information that is relevant to their beat, and
“Remember, journalists receive a ton of story pitches,” said Holley. “They don’t have time or the mental energy to make the leap and figure out how your pitch is relevant to them and their viewers. You need to make the case very clearly or you should not expect more than 10 seconds of their time and attention.”
In our second annual Vocus State of the Media Survey, we asked journalists across media about how they use social media and their pitching preferences.
In a random sampling of media professionals working at magazines, newspapers, online outlets, television, radio or blogs, 256 responded. Out of that number, 53.4 percent cover local/community news, 39.4 percent cover regional news and 43 percent cover national news.
Journalists tend to use social media for all tasks, including promotion, research and engaging with their audience; some use it solely for content promotion.
“There’s a lot of bang for a TV journalist’s buck by interacting on social media. It makes viewers feel they are part of the process and in turn, makes them more likely to watch or at least turn to that outlet for information,” Holley said. “By promoting themselves and their station, journalists are gaining further access to stories, people and ideas.”
Social media is highly relevant to journalists when reporting, with 50 percent saying they use it very frequently and 26.7 percent saying they use it frequently. Only a small percentage—1.9 percent—claimed to never use social media for reporting at all.
As in 2012, Twitter and Facebook are the top networks used by media professionals for content promotion, with 87.3 percent using Twitter and 78.5 percent saying they use Facebook. The two networks were followed by LinkedIn at 25.8 percent and Google+ with 18.5 percent. In 2012, YouTube came in third, but is now fifth.
When it comes to using social media for research, only 21.7 percent found it extremely useful, while 24.3 percent found it very useful. On the flip side, only 8 percent found it not useful at all. “Research probably explains why LinkedIn is so popular as a social network for journalists,” Kim said. “It ranks just behind Twitter and Facebook. Of the big three, only LinkedIn can claim that it is the social network for professionals. Those who may operate under a clever pseudonym on Twitter or even Facebook will likely have more straightforward content posted to LinkedIn.”
The survey indicated journalists believe information found on social media somewhat trustworthy. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least trustworthy and 10 being very trustworthy, the plurality of respondents—27.2 percent—gave information they got from social media a rating of five, followed by 18.7 percent, who gave it a rating of seven. “Some reporters call social media ‘essential to the job’ and others call it ‘a must,’” Coates said. “And yet some still call it useless. The opinions vary on where social media stands in the newspaper business, but one thing is certain: It is changing the way things are looked at.”
Respondents found the most frequent way they received social media pitches was through Facebook (77 percent), with Twitter a close second (73 percent), and 34.7 percent of respondents said they had been pitched through LinkedIn.
The survey found that the plurality of respondents—45.3 percent—preferred not to be pitched through social media. Of the reporters who would receive pitches via social media, 37.1 preferred Facebook, and 30.6 percent preferred Twitter.
It’s clear social media is increasingly being embraced by journalists, although email is still the preferred method to receive pitches. Similar to last year’s response of 89 percent, 90.7 percent of respondents said they still prefer to be pitched by email, while only 2.7 percent chose social media
as their top preference.
“Although journalists across the board overwhelmingly say they’d rather be pitched by email, they are becoming increasingly open to receiving pitches through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter,” Holley said. But tread carefully, because email is still the preferred method.
Despite some journalists’ negative feelings surrounding the social media pitch, there were plenty of others who responded positively:
Overall, most journalists felt social media was an inescapable and vital tool to supplement coverage and engage with readers:
Although a number of respondents noted they had never received a good pitch via social media, others shared leads and pitches they found through various platforms:
Similar to years past, the newspaper industry continued to change and innovate with the demands of an increasingly digital audience. But it was also a year for goodbyes, most noticeably when the Grahams sold The Washington Post to Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos.
The industry mourned the Chicago Sun-Times’ decision to cut its entire photography department, although a small number were bought back on. There have been closures as well, but not quite as many as we saw in 2012. Compared to last year’s 152 newspaper closures, we found 114 folded this year. Fifty-nine closures were weeklies. Twenty were online.
Six papers that folded were dailies, including The Nashville City Paper and The Californian. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Journal News and Middletown Journal merged to become The Journal-News. From the weeklies that closed, 11 were from The Daily Voice newspaper group in Massachusetts.
It was a bad year for AOL-owned Patch, which dominated headlines when a majority of the 900-plus sites were gutted of their staffs and left to exist as user-sourced shells. Patch.com’s future is even more uncertain since AOL announced it was giving majority ownership of Patch to Hale Global, a New York investment firm. Most recently, Hale Global instituted hundreds of layoffs, with reports noting fewer than 100 employees still working at Patch. The sites will reportedly featureless original content and will aggregate from other news sites.
Instead of seeing a slew of launches by Patch.com as there were in previous years, five sites closed while Mt. Airy Patch and Chestnut Hill Patch in Pennsylvania merged, as did the South Gate and Lynwood Latino Patches in California. Out of 20 newspaper launches, three were Patch.com sites. The one bright spot for Patch is that traffic has continued to grow and surpassed 16 million unique visitors in November.
This past year’s launches were much more modest compared to the previous year’s 90. Several of the 20 launches in 2013 came from parent outlets. TP Street was the Times-Picayune’s attempt at appeasing readers who still felt slighted by Advance Newspaper’s decision to cut the New Orleans daily’s publication frequency down to three days a week.
The Chicago Tribune launched its online newspaper, Blue Sky Innovation, which targets entrepreneurs in Chicago, while the Orange County Register, which bulked up staff over the past two years, launched the Long Beach Register. In 2014, the newspaper company will also launch the daily
Los Angeles Register.
For several years now, paywalls have been a dominant theme in the newspaper industry as papers big and small alike decided to try out subscription services. The Washington Post, which claimed to be a staunch opponent, erected one this past year.
Digital First Media’s John Paton, also a critic, announced they would put the company’s papers behind a paywall as well. The Pioneer Press was the first to transition last year, and the rest of the 75 dailies were slated to go up in January 2014. Paton, however, has noted that he doesn’t believe paywalls are a long-term strategy.
In mid-2013, The Chicago Sun-Times dismissed its entire photography staff in favor of freelancers and staff reporters trained on iPhone camera basics. Although they hired four back (with the requirement they learn video), it’s a disturbing trend that continued in Georgia when Southern
Community Newspapers eliminated its photography department, as did Gatehouse Media’s Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The moves illustrate the growing dependency on mobile devices, as well as a need for cost-cutting measures.
“I think some newspapers believe they can get their art from any wire service and in some instances they can, when it comes to national or regional news,” Coates said. “However, the people in the business call it ‘art’ for a reason. Photographers truly are artists, and yes, their photos are worth a thousand words. Newspapers are selling themselves short if they think they can do without solid, if not stellar, photography,”
Magazine launches are gradually decreasing year on year, with only 97 new magazines debuting in 2013. This is compared to the 165 in 2012 and the 195 in 2011. Out of the new magazines, 59 were print and 38 were online launches.
New print rags included the launch of two new editions of Edible magazine, a franchise magazine network that continues to grow in Milwaukee and San Antonio. Meanwhile, Closer, a celebrity magazine targeted at 40-something women, launched along with All Recipes magazine and WSJ. Money. Condé Nast’s Domino, which folded in 2009, was re-launched as a quarterly with an e-commerce focus on its website. New online magazines launched included Craft Brewing Business, xoVain.com and GrapeCollective.com
More magazines closed, showing an increase in closures year over year with 81 closures in 2012 and 150 in 2013. Of the publications that closed, 25 were online and 125 were print magazines. Print magazines that folded include Caribbean Travel & Life, Accent Magazine, Babytalk and Creating Keepsakes. Online magazines that closed include Mobile Device & Design, Foodie News, VivMag and Managing Diversity.
In spite of what the numbers said, Kim noted it was a better year for magazines. “Looking back in a few years, 2013 maybe recalled as a resilient, if not resurgent, year for magazines,” Kim said. “At least 2013 should be the year we stopped using words like ‘dying’ to describe the health of the industry.”
Kim noted that although there was growth, layoffs and magazine closures were certainly prevalent. The industry’s adoption of digital continued on a growth track, and its impact was clear. “A convenient though complicated case study is Newsweek. Its print edition folded into thedailybeast.com earlier in 2013, but resumed a distinct brand domain in October. Previously slated to relaunch the print product in January 2014, the brand plans to return to newsstands in March. Newsweek is an example of both [the] challenges of launching a print product as well as how the evolution of the magazine industry doesn’t necessarily mean the death of print channels. Brands are relying less on advertising and more on subscription and newsstand sales,” he said.
Growth in digital sales led to an overall growth. The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) reported a six percent increase in ad units across magazine platforms. This is mostly due to tablets, which showed a 16 percent unit increase with print breaking even.
“The decline of overall magazine advertising and audiences appears to have leveled off, but this trend is largely owed to digital or tablet subscriptions,” said Kim. “Print publications may boast marginal increases in audience, but unsurprisingly, digital channels saw the most growth in the magazine industry.”
Native advertising, also referred to as sponsored content, played a big role over the last year. BuzzFeed, a popular online site, has utilized this trendy new way to advertise by allowing ads to stand as editorial content, while being clearly labeled as sponsored.
“Native advertising could be seen as proof that the line between editorial and advertising is further eroding. But it really does depend on the audience,” said Kim. “BuzzFeed’s audience, for example, does not seem to mind even though BuzzFeed’s sponsored links are clearly marked as such. The better question about native advertising is whether it’s the homerun that brands would like it to be.”
Brands are also taking advantage of digital through buyer’s guides or online shopping platforms. This includes the relaunched Domino, which offers shopping opportunities for home goods and clothing on its website.
Almost 100 television shows launched this year, which included local newscasts, national sports and talk shows on cable and broadcast networks. Several political and financial shows also made debuts on PBS, CNBC and MSNBC.
“Otherwise, most of the new additions are par for the course,” said Holley. “We typically see local newscasts come and go. Local stations often experiment with new timeslots to determine where they can get their biggest audience numbers or they venture into new parts of the day based on past successes in other timeslots.”
The majority of the growth came from several cable networks that were acquired and then relaunched as new networks, such as Current TV, which is now Al Jazeera America; Speed, which was replaced by Fox Sports 1; and Fuel TV, which is now Fox Sports 2. The Fusion network also launched a joint venture between Disney and Univision, and targets English-speaking Latino Millennials. Additionally, The Weather Channel debuted entertainment-related weather programming.
A number of consolidations happened over the past year that included newspaper publishers like Gannett and Tribune. Sinclair Broadcasting acquired Allbritton as well as Fisher Communications’ 20 stations in eight different markets and three radio stations. Meanwhile, the Tribune Company purchased Local TV LLC for $2.725 billion in July, adding 19 television stations in 16 markets to its already-existing 42 properties.
Also in July, Gannett acquired the Belo Corporation and nearly doubled its stations, going from 23 to 43. Media General, which shed its papers over the last couple of years, merged with New Young Broadcasting in 2013 to form a new broadcasting company with 20 stations in 27 markets. “This tells us that media companies are feeling more confident about making major purchases and investing in the future,” said Holley. “It means these big media companies are trying to increase their reach across the country into a variety of markets (and in many cases into markets that are different from the ones they reach now) and to increase their profit margins. For some companies such as Tribune and Gannett, it allows them to reap the benefits of TV ad revenue, which has been more stable than newspaper ad revenue in recent years.”
Unlike a few years ago when television newsrooms across the country cut a lot of staff, we did not see massive layoffs in 2013. Holley noted stations managed this by not hiring and increasing productivity. “However, as the economy continues to improve and consumers continue to spend, it will lead to more commercial revenue and, in turn, more investment by the stations and networks in their facilities, technology, equipment and manpower,” Holley said.
Mobile continues to have an impact on the television industry through increased interaction between viewers and TV stations/networks and social media. It also allows viewers to live stream newscasts to their smartphones, which is the same content going out on the air. Several online news outlets, including Yahoo! (with its hiring of Katie Couric) and The Huffington Post, have committed to delivering mobile friendly video content.
“At this point, stations and networks cannot rely on viewership alone because studies show a sizeable number of young professionals don’t even own TVs, and if they do, they don’t subscribe to cable and may not even be watching their local stations,” Holley said. Instead, many tune into Amazon Instant Video, Netflix or Hulu to watch their shows, and go online to spot-read news.
“To remain relevant, TV stations and networks will continue to work on wooing viewers and readers to all of their platforms,” Holley said. “The other goal of television programmers is to get people talking about their material so that new people will tune in. That’s why we often see these random, crazy reality shows pop up all over the place. The producers know that certain topics will elicit a strong social media response.”
As was the case last year, radio’s audience continues to rise. Nielsen found that over the past year, radio added 700,000 weekly listeners, reaching more than 241.8 million listeners overall. “It is probably safe to say that much of the increase can be attributed to online listening,” said Johnson. “Audio overall increases as more and more ways to listen come about. While streaming is on the rise, terrestrial radio still reaches more listeners.”
Older listeners are keeping terrestrial radio alive. According to Johnson, the average age of a heavy radio user that spends six or more hours a day listening is 42. Meanwhile, younger listeners are moving online.
A 2013 study found listeners between the ages of 13 and 35 were listening to online and streaming music services as much as AM/FM radio (one percent differential). “For listeners 36 years of age and older, AM/FM radio still accounts for 41 percent of weekly listening compared to just 13 percent for streaming services,” said Johnson.
Mobile devices also continue to be vital tools for media professionals to expand their reach. Nearly one in five Pandora and iHeartRadio listeners use mobile devices to connect the services in their cars.
Radio also has a similar audience to those using mobile devices, with 12.8 percent of AM/FM radio’s adult audience falling in the 18-24 demographic, according to Nielsen. The same study showed 12.8 percent of mobile’s adult audience was in the 18-24 age range. Similar numbers were also found in the 25-44 demographic, with 34.8 percent of AM/FM radio’s audience and 34.5 percent of mobile’s audience also falling in that demographic.
“Despite predictions that radio is dying since its audience is older, this could mean newer technologies are bringing radio to a younger audience,” Johnson said.
Although HD radio seemed a growing trend several years ago, more stations actually dropped their signal in 2013. “There are fewer HD signals on the air now than there were a year ago,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, News/Talk topped the popular formats this year, with 9.3 percent of listeners six years of age and older tuning in, Johnson said, citing Nielsen Audio. Contemporary Hits Radio came in second with 8.2 percent, followed by Country with 7.8 percent.
Layoffs in the radio industry slowed this year. There were no mass layoffs at Clear Channel, which had eliminated a number of employees the last couple of years. That’s not to say there were no staff cuts. Four employees from each of Clear Channel’s 150 markets were let go. WBAI-FM in New York City wasn’t so lucky, however, and let its entire news department and a number of on-air talents go due to financial issues.
Much like other traditional mediums, the radio industry is adjusting with the times but not without its share of ups and downs. “Online and streaming radio’s growth will likely continue, but new technologies will provide more platforms for radio of all kinds to flourish, including connected cars, FM chips and apps in cellphones, and the use of social media to make radio more personal and interactive,” Johnson said.
Social media is here to stay and it’s on the rise. The traditional media industry seems to be embracing it more and more. But that’s only part of the story when it comes to technologically dynamic journalism.
Consider newspapers that cut photographers in favor of smartphones. Although these outlets certainly asserted their digital focus, it’s not always the ideal outcome. The elimination of such a fundamental component of story-telling damages an outlet’s integrity, the journalists and the readers.
And yet, with the use of mobile devices, journalists capture real-time photos and video simply by reaching into their back pocket or purse and clicking on their phone. Through citizens who share and tweet, and through the journalists themselves who now carry the capabilities to catch breaking news 24/7, journalism in 2014 has become simultaneously more local and more global.
Although the print industry didn’t seem to have as much growth as in previous years, the term “dying” was much less prevalent and brands are continuing to maximize their presence as individual outlets, publishers, networks and stations are becoming fully engaged in the 21st century.
There will always be cuts, layoffs and closures, but there also always will be new stories and new blood energizing an age-old industry. In 2014, long-struggling media entities may have to give up the fight, but new ideas and innovation will rise from the ashes. Look for experimentation to continue, especially in advertising, where native advertising has been the hot trend, and for media to continue to take digital implementation to new heights.
David Coates had 15 years of newspaper reporting and editing experience before joining Vocus in November 2004. He came to Vocus from The Washington Times, where he was the assistant sports editor and oversaw a staff of more than 20 writers and editors. He assigned stories, attended editorial meetings, edited copy and coordinated the daily production of the newspaper’s sports section. Prior to joining The Washington Times in 1999, he spent 10 years at the (Newark) Star-Ledger in New Jersey as a sports reporter, covering national and local golf as well as New Jersey high school sports. He has worked in media relations at Sports America, a sports marketing firm in Rockville, Md., and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.
Tayne Kim joined Vocus in 2006 as a media researcher for magazine and online content. Since then, he’s studied the nuances of the magazine industry, tracking trends and significant changes through the 2008 recession and the growth of social media. Prior to overseeing magazine and online data for Vocus, he served as a Senior Media Researcher of magazine content and co-managed Vocus’ annual editorial opportunities project since 2007. Kim has a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland where he co-hosted a college program, “Lonestar Radio,” on WMUC 2. In his free time, he volunteers with DC Asian Pacific American Film and contributes to art and culture blog InHarshLight.com.
Julie Holley joined Vocus from WUSA-TV, the CBS television affiliate in Washington, D.C., where she was a newscast producer. Prior to that, she served as a newscast producer for the 24-hour cable station and ABC-affiliate Newschannel 8. Before becoming a producer, she worked in a number of newsroom positions including assignment editor, field producer and guest booker. She also has experience in technical positions in television, including audio operator, feed room operator, photographer and video editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md. In her spare time, Holley is a nationally award-winning public affairs officer for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary and has served as a judge for local television Emmy awards and for the U.S. Army’s annual Soldiers Radio & Television Awards.
Prior to joining Vocus, Kyle Johnson spent 18 years at WTOP Radio, the all-news CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., where he served as assistant editor, drive-time editor, traffic reporter, weekend anchor and general assignment reporter. His last seven years at the station were spent as primary reporter for the state of Maryland, including the state legislature in Annapolis. He covered many high profile stories for the station, including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the Million Man March. He has worked in television as an assignment editor at WUSA-TV, where he fielded pitches and dispatched news crews to breaking events. He has also worked as a freelance PR professional for the Media Network, a broadcast and social marketing company in Silver Spring, Md. He holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from American University.
Katrina Mendolera took the helm of inVocus as editor in chief in 2009, having written news and provided editorial support since its creation in late 2008. Before joining the Vocus research team as a senior media researcher in 2007, she worked in daily and weekly newspapers in Rochester, N.Y., with Messenger Post News, specializing in covering education and religion. She is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a master’s degree in journalism. She also serves as an editor for Booktrope Publishing in her spare time, blogs at KatrinaMRandall.com, and is slated to release her first book this spring. You can find her tweeting the latest media moves at @invocus.
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