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The State of Social Journalism

In this era of digital storytelling, many arguments ensue over whether or not social media can be considered a legitimate source when it comes to the traditional definition of journalism. Many of us turn to Facebook or Twitter when breaking news hits, and often it’s how we keep up on the latest happenings. But what do journalists really think about social media’s role in news consumption, and its role in the relationship between public relations and journalism?

Last year Cision launched its first global social journalism study which took into account 11 different countries from around the world, charting how journalists and media professionals use social media. This year’s study, conducted by Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK, compares results from 2012 to give a thorough look at the social journalism landscape. Respondents were vetted from Cision’s media database of more than 1.6 million influencers, publications and blogs globally. The study received more than 3,000 responses from journalists in the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

“The Cision Social Journalism Study aims at increasing the media industry’s knowledge and comprehension of journalists’ acceptance of social media, as well as its influence on the media, technology and processes of journalistic work,” said Falk Rehkopf, managing director of Cision Germany. “The increasing usage and importance of social media makes it necessary to observe and evaluate this process, not just for academic reasons but also because this has a direct impact on the work of communication professionals.”

Like last year, this year’s study breaks journalists into five different groups, based on their professional use of and attitude towards social media. These include:

  • Architects are the most active of these groups. They are the movers and shakers of the professional social media world, building up networks and frequently using a variety of tools.
  • Promoters are keen social media users focusing mainly on promoting themselves and advocating their work.
  • Hunters are medium-level users. They are active networkers and use social media for sourcing information as well as finding contacts.
  • Observers are the largest group overall, and tend to be lighter users who use social media to source and publish. Similarly to the Hunters, they are particularly keen on networking.
  • Skeptics are the least likely to use social media professionally. If they do engage in social media, they are the lowest frequency users and claim to have low knowledge and generally negative attitudes towards social media.

“The categorization according to five types of professional social media users makes our approach and study unique,” said Rehkopf. “It correlates with the results of the Social Journalism Barometer, which ranks Canada in first place in terms of media use, attitudes and activity, and Finland, France and Germany in the last three slots.”

These groups are present in all countries, showing very similar behaviors. However, the number of users in each category varies greatly by country. For example, Skeptics show the greatest variation between the smallest group size in Australia (just 1 percent) in contrast to the largest groups in Finland (28 percent) and Germany (37 percent). The number of Skeptics has also seen a significant decline since 2012 from 31 percent to 9 percent.

“The decline in social media skepticism is no doubt related to the hiring practices and overall orientation of journalistic institutions,” said Michael Serazio, assistant professor of communication at Fairfield University. “Web savvy now seems as much a prerequisite for employment as reporting and writing skills. I would anticipate – and have already seen, anecdotally – social media as a source for stories. The BBC’s multi-platform Trending project is a bold new example of this.”

Respondents indicated that overall there is a rise in the number of journalists who want to be contacted via social media. The survey also shows the cultural differences in the use of social media which has an effect on attitudes toward social. Statistics like these are important to the journalism and PR industry as a whole, as social media continues to be a player in both spaces, Rehkopf said.

“For PR professionals and marketers, cooperation and communication with journalists is essential,” he said. “For this reason, it is important to understand their work, how to reach them, and the way they think and act in their communication in general, and on social media in particular.”

Download the entire 2013 Social Journalism Survey for more insight into the state of social journalism.

Tags : social media

About Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph is a features writer for Cision Blog, and is also the digital engagement manager for Cision’s marketing department. She’s a book nerd, Detroit sports enthusiast, lover of cats, lifelong Phil Collins fan, and budding snowboarder. Find her on Twitter @gmg912.

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