A new report from Pew shows that while the news industry has lost more than a third of its newsroom jobs in traditional media, there are now more than 5000 jobs in digital news. 3,000 of these positions are at 30 big digital-only news outlets. The report covers five aspects of the relationship between social and news:
Social Media as a Pathway to News.
Facebook is the clear winner here. Roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use Facebook and half of those users get news there — amounting to 30% of the general population. So much for the idea of abandoning Facebook due to low organic reach. If you are a publisher ( news or blog), or you want traffic to your newsroom, Facebook is still your best bet. You may have to figure out ways to increase your reach or pay for news feed ads, but your audience is there.
YouTube comes in second as a source of news traffic. About half of Americans use the site and a fifth of them get news there – that’s 10% of the adult population.
Next is Twitter. They reach 16% of Americans and half of those users say they get news there, or 8% of Americans.
Reddit is used by only 3% of the U.S. population, but getting news there is a major draw–62% have gotten news from the site.
How Social Media Users Participate in News
Half of social network site users have shared news stories, images or vidoes 46% have discussed a news issue or event online. A small number are also covering the news themselves, by posting photos or videos of news events. 14% of social media users posted their own photos of news events to a social networking site, while 12% had posted videos. These citizen journalists play a role in many breaking news events.
How Social Media Users Find News
Although many people are finding news on Facebook and other social sites, search is still a major pathway to the news.
According to comScore data, visitors who go to a news media website directly spend roughly three times as long as those who wind up there through search or Facebook, and they view roughly five times as many pages per month. This higher level of engagement from direct visitors is evident whether a site’s traffic is driven by search or social sharing and it has big implications for news organizations who are experimenting with digital subscriptions while endeavoring to build a loyal audience. Pew Research.
The News Experience on Facebook
The news users are exposed to on Facebook can be very varied – on average Facebook users see six news topics – the most common being entertainment news. Facebook is not a place users expect to find breaking news. Less than a third (28%) of Facebook news consumers ever use the site to keep up with a news event as it unfolds and less than half of those users would turn to Facebook first to follow breaking news. Twitter is seen as a breaking news feed.
The Impact of Social on the Discussion of News Events
Pew’s research shows that contrary to the generally accepted view, social does not always feed conversation around a news topic. In fact, most people see social as a public forum and are less inclined to voice their opinions there than in person. However, there have been some recent instances where a news event has sparked a storm of social conversation. Witness the NFL debacle and the Ferguson riots.
What does all this mean for PR pros?
- You have to monitor all social media channels rigorously. If your brand is involved in a major news item it will be vital to know what is being said by whom on which channel in real-time.
- Be aware that this can cut both ways – something that blows up on social will make its way to the major news outlets very fast. Reporters are monitoring social channels for news items too.
- Provide an excellent newsroom for both the public and the media, so that if there is a breaking news item you can provide information fast in a format the media can use right away.
- Post your news to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit.
- Remember that while social is a growing pathway to news, search is still a vital source of highly engaged and interested news consumers. Your newsroom and your news content (text and visual) must be optimized for search.