Last year, for instance, I looked at a study conducted by MuckRack, with over 75 percent of respondents revealing that they felt under pressure to write content that will be shared on social networks.
In terms of social media usage, Twitter was the undisputed king, with the vast majority of journalists checking in several times per day, with their usage designed to boost both their own brand and that of their profession.
Alas, there is a sense that the profession has still to really embrace social media. A recent study examined how journalists are using social media, both in terms of hunting down breaking news and also for engaging with their audience.
How social are journalists?
The researchers interviewed journalists from a range of national and local newspapers and found a limited utilization of social networks such as Twitter. For instance, most journalists were using Twitter to talk with fellow journalists rather than hunt for stories or engage with readers.
“This study contributes to a larger body of work looking at the disconnect between journalists and news consumers,” the authors say. “Despite prevalent organizational expectations that journalists engage with audiences on social media, most interviewees have very little experience with, or knowledge of, their audiences.”
Now, it should be said that the study used a small sample, and relied purely on the testimony of the journalists themselves rather than any analysis of content shared online, but the author nonetheless believes that more support needs to be given to enable journalists to fully embrace social media.
From my own personal experience, I have seen a growing number of journalists using Twitter for things like media requests and general research for stories, whilst platforms such as Reddit allow a relatively easy way to gage what is hot or not.
There still appears to be limited interest in post-production engagement, whether that’s engaging with comments below the line or on social media, but given the emotive element of many of these comments that is perhaps understandable.
The economic impact of social
The authors are less enthusiastic about the economic potential for social media. Whilst Twitter is increasingly valuable to the work of journalism, it adds little to the commercial viability of the industry.
“When asked to assess the economic viability of Twitter as a news platform, most interviewees believed that while Twitter may encourage news use by serving as teasers, it is unlikely to encourage audiences’ willingness to pay,” they conclude. “So the question is, how do you save the news industry with a product that is unlikely to generate profit?”
I imagine this is going to be an issue that runs and runs as the industry, and its participants continue to grapple with a rapidly changing landscape.