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This post is written by Cision guest blogger Annette Arno. Annette is a Research Director and analyzed the survey data and prepared the final report for a study released yesterday by Cision and George Washington University: How the Press Uses and Values Public Relations and Other Media Resources. She has more than 15 years of experience in market research.

Exploring social media usage by editors/journalists

Social media —the myriad ways in which individuals create and share information and ideas on the Internet, using such entities as blogs, social networks like Facebook, hybrids such as Twitter, and the venerable podcast (audio/video files distributed via the web)—is for everyone. And why not? These resources make great use of great technology – which can sometimes be isolating – to instead foster connections to others and share information. This is fine for personal use, and many corporations have entered the fray in order to become closer to their constituencies.

What about the journalists?

But what about the media? Specifically, the editors and journalists who are the gatekeepers of more traditional media? Do they use social media in their editing and reporting? You know, the NEWS?  That is the question Cision and George Washington University set out to answer when we launched a study of 12,337 editors and journalists, recently accomplished via online questionnaire.

What we did and how we did it

In all, 745 editors/journalists across primarily North America but also Europe agreed to participate in November 2008. These editors/journalists came in many flavors (magazine, Internet, newspaper and broadcast), age ranges (from twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings) and experience levels (from less than 5 years through more than 30 years).

This post shares one of many findings of the study, namely, how often editors/journalists use each of nine specific information sources to do their jobs. Those nine were: blogs, conferences and events, industry newswires such as PR Newswire, podcasts, press kits, social networking sites, submissions from PR professionals (such as news releases or pitch letters), trade journals and websites.

Respondents were given the option of four possible answer categories: All the time (at least once per day), Often (once a week), Sometimes (1 – 2 times monthly) or Never (0 times). 

Website use ubiquitous; Blog use nearly so

Probably of no surprise to anyone is that, in an average month, 100% of editors/journalists responding said they used websites in their editing and reporting. What may surprise some is that slightly more of the more senior editor/journalists (age 30 plus) said that they use websites at least once per day compared to the youngest group (age 29 and younger.) OK, but websites are not necessarily, or certainly not as fully, interactive compared to what we know as social media. Know this then; our study showed that almost eight out of ten editors/journalists said they used blogs in an average month to do their jobs. This finding would suggest that blogs have become an integral informational resource in the toolbox of editors/journalists. And unlike websites, younger editor/journalists tend to use them more often than do the oldest respondents. However, what is again revealing is the high percentage of use among even the oldest of editors/journalists – 73% of those age 50 and older said they used blogs at least once a month to report the news.    

Social Networks used less often; Podcasts – not so much

Other social media are not as well used as blogs. The two least utilized sources – of the nine tested – were social networking sites (50%) and podcasts (35%). Like blogs, social networking sites are most often used by younger editors/journalists. But again, over half of those aged 30 to 49 make use of social networking sites, and more than four out-of-ten editors/journalists age 50 and older reported likewise. Podcasts, however, are another story as the majority of editors/journalists said they did not use podcasts when crafting their stories. Interestingly enough, among the various age groups it is the youngest editors/journalists who report the lowest usage of this source – lower even than those age 50 and older.    

So according to our respondents, blogs are often used by editors/journalists in an average month, but other social media – podcasts and social networking sites – have a long way to go before they achieve the same status. Still, that path is decidedly shorter for social networking sites; usage by half is noteworthy for such a young media. 

What do you think?

Not to get you off-track, but I leave you with this question; what source was reported second most often as being used by editors/journalists? Believe it or not – submissions from PR professionals. It turns out that in spite of often justified complaints about aggressive pitching by PR practitioners, journalists still depend on the time-tested news release for background on their stories.

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