Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Oriella Survey: Most Journalists Shun Social Media And Blogs

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 18, 2011

A survey of nearly 500 journalists across 15 countries has found that some journalists use social media and blogs to source and verify stories. But the majority don't.

Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) said they used Twitter to source new story angles. Over a third said they used Facebook (35 percent). Blogs were also highlighted as a key element of this process with 30 percent saying they used blogs they were familiar with, while 42 percent also drew from blogs they had not visited before. However, the study also validated the continued importance of the PR representative with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) saying this is where they source stories whilst 59 percent cited corporate spokespeople as sources.

When it comes to validating stories already in progress, a third of those polled said they used Twitter; a quarter used Facebook; and a quarter used blogs.

The fact that some journalists use social media in their work is not surprising. The surprise comes in turning the survey's findings inside-out:

- 53% of journalists do not use Twitter for story sources.

- Two-thirds don't use Facebook.

- 70% do not use blogs.

- 58% do not use unfamiliar blogs.

That's a striking set of numbers and it goes to show how far behind the majority of journalists are in using the many research and sourcing tools at their disposal.


Other trends: Most journalists are optimistic:

In 2010, 62 percent of those surveyed expected to see their media outlet experience a fall in revenue. Now, barely 20 percent of journalists expect this to happen in 2011. The cautiously optimistic outlook is also reflected in the respondents' thoughts on audience figures. In 2010, 41 percent of those surveyed expected their audiences to decline going forward. This year, this figure was reduced to just nine percent.

This question about revenues and their publication, is not one that journalists are able to answer because they will have little or no knowledge of the commercial side of their business. Yes, they have some inkling about possible layoffs and cost cuts in their organizations, but they have no concrete numbers to anchor their response.

It's clear that newspapers and magazines, along with the rest of the media industry, still have a long way to go in their transition to digital business models. The media business is not stabilizing, its in the path of tremendously disruptive technologies that still have many years to run.

Also: Most journalists aren't working harder:

Almost half (45 percent) admitted they have to produce more content and a third (34 percent) work longer hours. However, despite this added pressure, 44 percent of the respondents said they enjoyed their job more, compared with 34 percent in 2010 and just 27 percent in 2009.

It's interesting that more than half the journalists reported that they don't have to work any harder.

That goes to show how much change is still ahead for most journalists because if you aren't working harder and smarter (like using Twitter for leads) you are headed in the wrong direction for your profession.

If journalists don't want to learn new skills, such as how to use social media sources in the right way, and how to treble output while maintaining quality, they will find themselves shunted of into a corner.

The opportunity for journalists is huge. There's more innovation happening in media than in any other industry.

Journalists now have the technologies and tools to create completely unique forms of media; and to tell stories in ways that have never been said.

But journalists need to add to their bag of skills, they need to learn some computer and social media literacy, just enough so that they understand the digital publishing infrastructure. They should know some HTML, CSS, and maybe some JavaScript and Ruby on Rails.

Also: how to shoot and edit HD video; how to get great audio interviews in crowded places; how to take great photos and process them and upload, etc.

Most journalists don't type well and they can't spell but they know how to tell compelling stories. And they know how to deal with the private agendas of competing interests in sourcing stories and contacts.

Journalists could do a lot more with those skills if they had some knowledge and understanding of the many media technologies that make up everything we see and hear online; the underlying publishing systems for literally everything. And also understand the cultural dynamics of story ideas across social media and other communities.

It's the next stage in media literacy. But this study shows that the majority of journalists have been left behind and don't engage with social media or blogs, and they mostly use traditional methods of sourcing stories.

However, the study also shows that there's a large percentage of working journalists that are using many of the new media tools, and are adding new skills. Maybe they can mentor their reticent colleagues.

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The Oriella Digital Journalism study is an annual survey of journalists worldwide conducted by the Oriella PR Network, a leading, global alliance of independent technology PR agencies. This year is the fourth year the study has been carried out and it is based on responses from almost 500 journalists from broadcast, national, trade and consumer titles in 15 countries.

The full report can be downloaded from: www.orielladigitaljournalism.com


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