2015 Global Social Journalism Study
The following whitepaper was originally published by Cision.
Now in its fourth year, The Social Journalism Study, conducted by Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University, charts the changing ways journalists and media professionals use social media for their work and in their communication with PR professionals.
This report gathers data from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Australia, which have been part of this study for three years. The study has included other countries in its lifespan but only those that have been included every year are compared here.
This report takes a snapshot of journalists' perspectives on social media in these six countries and shows how they have evolved. Through the use of cluster analysis, the report provides insights into journalists' attitudes toward social media, how reporters use social in their work, the impact of social media on their relationships with PR professionals, and predictions for what this means for social journalism moving forward.
- Journalists continue to fit into five distinctive groups, but they are becoming more social media savvy.
- Social media is a routine tool for most journalists across all surveyed countries, but their use of it is stagnating.
- About half of respondents in each country think they need social media to do their work and that social media has lightened their workload.
- Journalists in English-speaking countries are more interactive and create more content on social media.
- Twitter and Facebook are the most popular, but journalists use a variety of networks.
- Journalists in English-speaking countries tend to have more social media followers.
- Experts are a key source of information for journalists, but the importance of PR sources varies among the surveyed countries.
- Email continues to dominate how journalists prefer to be contacted, but social media is gathering pace.
- German journalists are the most alarmed about privacy and data security, but these concerns have increased in most surveyed countries over the last three years.
- Traditional perceptions about what journalism should be remain and are especially strong in Scandinavian countries.
- Half of the respondents surveyed agree that social media is undermining journalistic values.
Through the life of the Social Journalism Study, five types of social media users have emerged in a professional journalistic environment. These groups are strongly connected by their use, views, attitudes and behavior toward social media, PR professionals and their own profession. The following summaries highlight these differences.
Architects: This group is made up of social media experts. Architects use social media the most, with 29 percent using it for four hours or more per day. They're also the most knowledgeable about social media with 16 percent reporting they have expert knowledge and 49 percent having extensive knowledge.
An Architect's use of social media is the most diverse and dominated by publishing and promoting. They also use the full range of social media tools, social networks and professional social networks. They are keen content creators, with a high number doing so daily. Although almost all of them use Twitter and Facebook, this group includes early adopters of new social media brands, using lesser-known brands such as Storify, Flipboard, Banjo, Tableau and others.
Architects, like all groups, prefer contact via email, but social media is their second most-preferred method. Architects particularly dislike contact by telephone.
Architects rate PR professionals as their second main source of information when sourcing a story, only marginally behind journalists and other media outlets. They are the most likely to say they are happy with their relationship with PR practitioners, but they are less reliant on PR professionals because of social media.
Unsurprisingly, online journalists make up a majority of the Architects group, and they are most likely to freelance or work for small organizations. Architects can be found in all areas of journalism, apart from curated news, which reinforces the idea of this group as content creators.
Promoters: This group is the third largest type of social media user. They spend a lot of time on social media, with 23 percent using it for four hours or more per day. They know social media well, with 96 percent claiming to have expert knowledge. They use a variety of social media tools, particularly for publishing, promoting and sourcing stories.
Promoters use the most social media apps. Facebook and Twitter are by far the most preferred networks, but about half of Promoters use Google+ and Instagram. In their daily activities, they are keen to post and re-post content and read content of those they follow. Promoters also monitor discussions about what is posted.
Their overall views towards social media are positive, with almost two-thirds (62 percent) stating that social media has improved their productivity. A majority of Promoters work online and are between the ages of 28 and 45.
Hunters: The smallest group, Hunters use social media to scout and hunt for information which they can use in their work – not just to share information but to create new content. Journalists in this group use social media for sourcing more than the other groups.
In terms of time spent using social media, frequency of use and levels of knowledge, Hunters rank third of the five groups. In fact, almost a quarter say they have limited social media knowledge. After sourcing, networking is high on their list of priorities for social media as illustrated by their high use of social networks and content communities.
Hunters are more information gatherers rather than frequent content creators. As with all groups, Hunters prefer contact by email, followed by telephone and social media. Of all the groups, Hunters have the most women (53 percent). Hunters don't specialize in any one area of journalism, as they are split equally between online, newspapers and magazines. Hunters have the largest group of journalists writing original news, both soft and investigative.
Hunters tend to have positive views about social media, but not to the extent that Architects and Promoters do. Although they are heavy users of social media, this is not translating to a more positive view of social media, suggesting social media is seen as a necessity rather than a choice.
Observers: Observers are the largest group, making up 29 percent of the population. Observers are generally social media users, but use it less than Promoters and Architects. Observers seem to work smarter, using social media for less time while being more productive and focused.
Observers limit their use of social media, with 58 percent reporting using social media up to two hours daily and almost a quarter using it for a few hours per week. Despite this relatively low use rate, they report high skill levels. Four in five Observers say they have good or extensive knowledge, suggesting they are making strategic choices about social media's use rather than being driven by it.
When sourcing stories, Observers place experts and academics as their main source, followed by other journalists and media outlets. In contrast, Promoters and Architects turn to other journalists and media outlets first and then PR sources and academics/experts. Observers are comprised primarily of print journalists and broadcasters and are spread fairly evenly across age groups.
Observers primarily use social media for publishing and promoting, but three quarters also use social media for sourcing, networking and monitoring, suggesting these journalists use social media in all areas of their work. On a daily basis, tasks include reading posts of people they follow, monitoring discussions about their own content and posting original comments.
Observers are most likely to write for print magazines and online publications, where they focus on original 'soft' news and features.
Skeptics: This group represents the second largest of the groups and are the least active on social media. Skeptics mainly use social media for sourcing, but they also use it for networking and to publish or promote their own work. A third of Skeptics say they have no followers on their preferred social networking site, and half report having limited social media knowledge.
On a daily basis, Skeptics have little social media activity. For example, only 8 percent said they read posts of people they follow and read blogs on a daily basis. The social networks they use most are Facebook (45 percent), Google+ (32 percent) and Twitter (31 percent), and they do not use more specialized tools.
Skeptics prefer to be contacted by email and telephone, but only 11 percent prefer contact via social media. Members of the Skeptics group are generally journalists who write features and original news. Skeptics also have the greatest number of journalists who don't produce any content (10 percent). This group has the smallest number of 18- to 27-year-olds and the largest number of people over age 46.
Skeptics tend to have negative views about the impacts of social media. It is difficult to ascertain whether low use and knowledge leads to negative attitudes or vice-versa.
"Journalists continue to fit into five distinctive groups, but they are becoming more social media savvy."
As in previous years, the 2015 Social Journalism Study finds five main types of professional social media users: Skeptics, Observers, Hunters, Promoters and Architects. Over the last three years, negative and novice users , which fall into the Skeptics and Observers categories, have made up a majority of the population. Though Skeptics and Observers still make up a majority (53 percent) of the population, journalists are gaining social media expertise.
From the six countries studied, Observers made up the largest portion of the population at 29 percent and are growing. Since 2012, the number of Observers has increased about 12 percent, jumping 3 percentage points. Trailing closely behind, Skeptics were the second largest group at 24 percent of the population, but their numbers are dwindling. In 2012, Skeptics made up 31 percent of the population but that number dropped to 23 percent by 2014. In three years, the combined population of Skeptics and Observers has declined slightly as the number of journalists who are active on social media – the Promoters and Architects – has grown. This small shift suggests journalists' use and attitudes towards social media are gradually moving towards acceptance as social media becomes an integral feature within the industry and their working life.
A more detailed analysis of these groups is provided in section two.
"Social media is a routine tool for most journalists across all surveyed countries, but their use of it is stagnating."
Social media is integral to journalistic practices, with the significant majority of respondents (94 percent) using it on a daily basis. The number of journalists not using social media has shrunk from 12 percent to 6 percent, but the percentage of journalists spending more time on social media has fallen. Sixty-seven percent of journalists spend up to two hours per day on social media, a significant gain from the 38 percent who did the same in 2012.
English-speaking countries report using social media tools more often and for longer, with fewer using it hardly at all. For example, 19 percent of journalists in Australia reported that they used social media two to four hours a day, compared to 10 percent in Germany. On the lower end of the spectrum, 18 percent of German respondents said they used social media a few hours per month, compared to 9 percent of Australian respondents. The number of journalists who are 'always connected' and use social media more than four hours a day is relatively low across all countries, but English-speaking countries (14 percent) do so more than non-English-speaking countries (8 percent).
A noticeable similarity in all the countries is that the time spent using social media is now stagnating after an initial rapid adoption of social media. The percentage of those using social media up to two hours a day is increasing due to a decline in those using it for longer. This suggests that after the initial excitement of the introductory phase of social media, the journalists found an optimum amount of time to spend on social media. For most journalists, constant use presents no additional gains, and most are settling for up to two hours per day of use.
"About half of respondents in each country think they need social media to do their work and that social media has lightened their workload."
As social media use has increased over the last few years, it has become integral to journalists' work, and perceptions of it as a necessary tool have grown.
Despite some differences based on country of origin, a sizeable group of respondents agreed that they would not be able to carry out their work without social media. The figure was highest in Australia (60 percent) and lowest in Germany (43 percent). Perceptions about the impact of social media on productivity have followed a similar pattern with 52 to 63 percent of journalists agreeing that social media made them more productive. However, social media does not seem to have made journalists' work easier.
Journalists' views on social media and productivity do not correspond to their views on how social media impacts their workload. Only 9 to 15 percent of respondents in the surveyed countries agreed that social media has decreased their workload, indicating that journalists perceive that social media has added to, not lightened, their workloads.
Journalists in all six countries feel that social media's usefulness has improved over the last few years. Between 2012 and 2014, Australian journalists became the most reliant on social media, overtaking American journalists. As of 2014, 60 percent of Australian journalists agreed they would not be able do their work without social media, compared to 53 percent of Americans.
In terms of productivity, Australian and Swedish journalists are most likely to see social media as a time-saver. Sixty-three percent of each country's respondents said social media improved their productivity, edging out U.K. journalists at 58 percent. Fifty-seven percent of American journalists believed social media improved productivity. That relatively slow growth (30 percent) in believing that social media boosted productivity could stem from the U.S. serving as early adopters, and the positive impact of social media has now plateaued compared to the other five countries.
"Journalists in English-speaking countries are more interactive and create more content on social media."
How journalists use tools and the frequency in which they do so varies based on nationality. One of the key characteristics of social media as a communication tool is it allows for content consumption, creation and interaction between users. Content consumption activities are similar among the surveyed countries, although German journalists are less likely to read blogs and monitor discussions. In the other countries, roughly half of the journalists who responded monitored their own content on a daily basis.
There was a noticeable difference between English- and non-English-speaking countries in relation to content creation and interaction with other users. For example, 59 percent of respondents in the U.K. and 50 percent in the U.S. and Australia posted original comments on a daily basis, but respondents in Sweden (32 percent), Finland (24 percent) and Germany (22 percent) were much less likely to do so. Journalists in English-speaking countries were also more interactive than other users. For example, 30 percent of respondents in the U.K. used social media on a daily basis to make new contacts (25 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent in Australia), while only 9 percent of journalists in Finland and 8 percent in Germany reported doing the same. Possible reasons for this include the earlier adoption of social media, the dominance of English as "lingua franca" on social media platforms and the strong market power of social media brands originating from English-speaking countries.
"Twitter and Facebook are the most popular, but journalists use a variety of networks."
Facebook and Twitter are the two most widely-used social media apps among journalists in the surveyed countries. However, the levels of popularity vary by country. In the U.K. and U.S., Twitter is the most popular with nearly three-quarters of respondents using it on a regular basis. In Finland, Germany and Sweden, Facebook is the dominant professional tool with the highest levels of use reported in Finland (86 percent). Although Facebook and Twitter are the leading apps, journalists use a variety of tools and platforms. Google+ usage varied between 30 and 48 percent, depending on the country. Instagram was less popular than Google+ in each country except for Sweden, where it outpaced Google's network by nine percentage points. German journalists (12 percent) are by far the least likely to adopt Instagram with half the adoption rate of the U.K., the second lowest Instagram adopter. Instagram is especially popular among young professionals. Unsurprisingly, non-English-speaking countries often rely on non-English platforms. For example, Xing is widely used in Germany.
Specialist social media apps, such as Hootsuite, Flipboard and Storify, have varying degrees of popularity, mainly among Architects and Promoters. Between 22 and 29 percent of U.S., U.K. and Australian respondents used Hootsuite, but journalists in Finland (3 percent), Sweden (6 percent) and Germany (7 percent) have not adopted the platform. Across all six nations, journalists rarely use Flipboard and Storify.
What makes a particular social network popular is related to why journalists use social media. American and U.K. respondents' main motivation for using social is to publish and promote their own content. Australian journalists said publishing and promoting was their second biggest motivation. In the non-English-speaking countries, publishing and promotion ranked third, trailing sourcing. The main reason journalists in Australia, Finland, Germany and Sweden use social media is sourcing. Therefore, Facebook is considered the most useful.
"Journalists in English-speaking countries have more social media followers."
Journalists tend to have more followers than the average person, which is to be expected given their professional role and their need to engage with their audience and expand their networks. However, the size of the follower base differs among the surveyed countries. Respondents in English-speaking countries reported a higher number of followers compared to those from Finland, Sweden and Germany. Reasons for this difference link back to differences discussed in previous findings, particularly more interaction, active use of social media and varied reasons for using social media.
The number of journalists with more than 500 followers increased in all countries between 2012 and 2014, as social media has become an essential part of journalistic practice. There are differences, however, in the rate of increase among the countries. Australian and Finnish journalists saw the biggest increase in the number of journalists with more than 500 followers, increasing 79 and 317 percent, respectively. Australian journalists (68%) are now tied with the U.S. journalists for percentage of journalists with more than 500 followers. Those in the U.S. and U.K. saw less impressive jumps of 28 and 38 percent, respectively. Though the lack of growth among U.S. and U.K. journalists could be attributed to relative saturation, as they had the greatest amount of journalists with more than 500 followers in 2012. Germany (35 percent) is the only country with less than half of journalists having a following of 500 or more.
"Experts are a key source of information for journalists, and the importance of PR sources varies among countries surveyed."
In all countries surveyed, 'experts' are a primary source of information for journalists, which is unsurprising given the need for impartiality in reporting. However, it seems that a cultural divide exists between these countries or the PR industry in the U.S. and U.K. is tailored to meet the needs of journalists.
Surprisingly, only between a quarter and just over a third of journalists felt they were less reliant on PR professionals because of social media, suggesting that social media supplements journalists' information but does not replace existing PR networks. This implies social media is an additional tool in a journalist's toolkit, reinforcing why journalists feel it has not reduced their workload (see Table 5).
"Email continues to dominate how journalists prefer to be contacted, but social media is gathering pace."
Over the last two years, email (81 percent) has remained the preferred contact method for PR and media professionals. Telephone has remained in second place with almost a third of journalists (30 percent) selecting it. Journalists have consistently stated they would like to see less contact through telephone, although this gap is shrinking. The use of social media as a contact method is now preferred by 22 percent of journalists, down from 24 percent in 2013.
Though email is the preferred contact method for all six countries surveyed, the second best method for contacting journalists varies by country. Telephone ranks as the second-most preferred method of contact in Finland, Germany, the U.K. and Australia, although it trails email by a significant margin. Swedish journalists list newswires as their second choice for contact, while U.S. journalists prefer social media second.
"German journalists are the most alarmed about privacy and data security, but these concerns have increased in most surveyed countries over the last three years."
German journalists (63 percent) were most likely to express concern about privacy and data security, but journalists in the U.S. (58 percent) and Australia (57 percent) trail closely behind.
Journalists in the U.S. and U.K. expressed little concern about privacy and data security in 2012, but over the last two years, have become much more worried. Privacy and data security is particularly problematic for journalists because they need a public profile to build their reputation and therefore cannot create a fictitious name. An outlier, Finnish journalists have become less concerned over time.
"Traditional perceptions about what journalism should be remain and are especially strong in Scandinavian countries."
There is widespread agreement across the surveyed countries about the wider role of journalism and its principal functions. In particular, there is a strongly held belief that a journalist's role is to investigate those in power. Given that our sample included a range of journalists not all working within investigative journalism, this reflection is about the wider values associated with the profession.
There is also a degree of similarity among the social media professional groups with strong agreement in a journalist's role to report the news quickly, provide interpretation and analysis of the news, and investigate those in power. It seems that these basic principles go beyond cultural differences and reflect core beliefs in the role of a journalist.
"Half of the respondents surveyed agree that social media is undermining journalistic values."
Overall, journalists indicated that fundamental changes as a result of using social media are not widespread, but generally these changes are felt more in English-speaking countries.
While there are no fundamental shifts as a result of engaging with social media, the profession is divided on whether or not social media is undermining important journalistic values. Despite the difference in the use of and attitude toward social media, all countries surveyed hold similar views on the impact of social media and are increasingly feeling these changes (Table 21).
Change By Country In Professional Social Media Groups
Over the lifespan of the Social Journalism Study, patterns of change among Skeptics, Observers, Hunters, Promoters and Architects emerge in each of the six countries. The number of Architects has grown in each country aside from Germany, but the group ranks no higher than third in terms of overall population in any country. While the number of Skeptics has shrunk in Australia, Finland, Germany and Sweden, the U.S. and U.K. have seen their populations of Skeptics increase. The early excitement of social media has faded, and the high levels of time and effort spent on social media have become more difficult to maintain.
The population of Observers grew in five of the surveyed countries. Only the U.K. saw its number of Observers shrink, partly due to a high increase in Skeptics (from 9 to 20 percent) and Promoters (from 25 to 35 percent). The growing population of Observers suggests that in terms of development, journalists who start as Skeptics may gradually move to Observers and then become Architects over time. Australia saw the biggest change, with a huge decline in Hunters, corresponding with an almost equal growth in Observers and Promoters.
Germany has remained fairly stable in its outlook apart from a shift away from Skeptics and towards Observers. In Sweden, it looks as if a drop in Skeptics from 36 to 14 percent led to 50 percent increases in the number of Observers and Promoters.
- The five different types of professional social media groups continue to be present in many different countries, suggesting that in an era of digital media, it is not always culture that causes differences but uses, attitudes, behaviors and views.
- Skeptics, Observers, Hunters, Promoters and Architects use social media differently, therefore how they are contacted needs to be tailored to their preferences in the same way brands segment audiences to deliver tailored communication.
- Journalists deal with a heavy load of social media traffic but are becoming more strategic about how they spend time on social media. This means they are not 'always on' but depend on social media as part of their toolkit.
- There are still some knowledge gaps for a number of journalists, particularly the Skeptics and Observers who stated a lack of knowledge. This could be a principal barrier to their use of social media. However, for many journalists there is a lack of advanced social media training courses tailored to their skills.
- Journalists are clearly focused on using Facebook and Twitter, but Architects often try new social media tools before they circulate to the other four groups.
- Of the six countries explored in this report, there often is a divide between English- and non-English-speaking countries in terms of their uses, views and attitudes. It is likely that stronger adoption will occur as countries translate and create social media content in their own language.
- Time spent using social media is not going to increase significantly, and journalists will focus on a few preferred tools and some specialist apps to make social media work for them.
- Although social media is increasing productivity, it is not resulting in a reduced workload. Journalists will make strategic decisions about their principal use of social media and their preferred tools for achieving their work goals.
- Email will continue to dominate the PR-journalist relationship. For journalists, the preference for telephone contact will continue to drop and be replaced by social media.
- Journalists will continue to rely on experts so they do not compromise their values and views of their profession by sourcing from perceived unreliable sources.
About the Data
Most of the findings are based on over 3,000 responses. Data about social media profiles were based on 2,851 respondents. The proportion of men and women surveyed was a perfect 50/50 split and slightly less than half (48 percent) fell in the 28-45 age group. Journalists who publish online made up 40 percent of the sample, reflecting the rise of digital journalism.
Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University conducted an online survey about the uses, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of social media among journalists. Respondents were taken from Cision's media database of more than 1.6 million entries globally. This year's study received over 3,000 responses from journalists in 11 different countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, the U.K., Finland, Sweden, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands in the following proportions:
France, Italy and Spain had too few participants to undertake meaningful analysis, so they were excluded from the country-by-country comparisons.
Throughout the survey the term 'journalist' is used to include other media professionals, including researchers and editors. The statistical analysis, based on a 95 percent confidence interval, examined the differences and similarities between sub-populations of respondents. The types of professional social media users were developed using cluster analysis. Therefore, figures for the clusters will differ compared to the global data and will differ from cluster analysis performed on individual countries, making the data not directly comparable.
The survey is designed to enhance the media industry's understanding of social media uptake and the impact of social media technologies and processes on journalists' work. Cision conducts this survey on an annual basis to continue to inform best practices within the PR and communication field and to deepen the industry's understanding of how journalists and professional communicators use and value social media and other resources. The research examined the patterns of social media usage of journalists for what professional tasks they use social media for and how they view the impact of social media on journalistic practices and professional values.
Cision is a leading global media intelligence company, serving the complete workflow of today's communication, social media and content marketing professionals. Offering the industry's most comprehensive PR and social software, rich analytics and a Global Insights team, Cision enables clients to improve their marketing and strengthen data-driven decision making. Cision also represents the Gorkana, PRWeb, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and iContact brands. Headquartered in Chicago, Cision has over 100,000 customers worldwide and maintains offices in Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and China.
About Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services. With nearly 20,000 students, and five campuses across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional expertise. Ninety-three percent of our recent U.K. undergraduates were in employment of further study six months after completing their studies. Along with over a thousand undergraduate, postgraduate and professional training courses on offer, the University is also home to world-leading and internationally recognized research.
Whitepaper originally published by Cision.