How Social Empowers Journalists

Image by Denver University
Image by Denver University

Journalists Report on the Presidential Debate, by Denver University

Pew released its annual State of the New Media report highlighting a continued decline in all forms of journalism except online. Yet online reporting has come with an increase in journalists using social media.

My client Vocus issued its fourth State of the Media report last month, revealing a strong synergy between traditional and social media.

What was once viewed as an either or choice is now irrevocably intertwined as a powerful synergy of content and fan engagement. Traditional media outlets from newspapers and magazine to broadcast use social media to distribute news and engage their readers.

For example, a vast majority of reporters use social media to report and to promote. Over half of respondents use social media primarily for content promotion: linking to content online or previewing upcoming news reports and features. Forty three percent are using it for research alone, and 31 percent use it for both.


In the case of print journalism, social media empowers outlets to compete with broadcast outlets to break news. “[Social media] is very effective if journalists are providing a service, like breaking news or interesting and funny observations. It makes them ‘must-reads’ on a regular basis,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group.

Of course, Twitter and Facebook were the major networks used by reporters. With more than 500 million registered users on Twitter and more than 1 billion on Facebook, they are established networks to draw traffic and maximize page views through follower cultivation and loyal readers.

But perhaps more interesting is the rise of YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ as secondary source networks. All three networks were cited as source networks by 20% or more of respondents, and YouTube was used by more than 35% of surveyed journalists.


Journalists were leery of social network sources citing inaccuracies and a general wariness towards content. However, reporters do like it for community engagement and supplementing publications and broadcasts with additional media.

Social Is Not a Pitching Venue

Journalists do not like receiving pitches via social media. In fact, reporter like being pitched on social media (5%) less than by telephone (6%). Eighty nine percent of reporters prefer to be pitched by email.

“Complaints about social media pitching range from vague or inappropriate topics to improper grammar,” said Tayne Kim, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “Certainly, complaints to do with grammar (as an example) demonstrate laziness or at least the informal way pitches via these platforms may be treated.”

The report dives deeper into the social journalism synergy, and further explores the health of the traditional media industry. You can download the whole report on the Vocus web site.

(A version of this post ran originally on the Vocus blog)