Will Social Media be the End of Traditional Journalism?

15 Jul Will Social Media be the End of Traditional Journalism?

This summer ING released a study entitled, “Impact of Social Media on the News: An International Study into the Impact of Social Media on the Activities of PR Professionals & Journalists, News, and News Dissemination.”

This study, conducted by Social Embassy on behalf of ING, asked 185 PR professionals and 165 journalists how the growing popularity of social media for news has impacted their work lives.

Here are a few insights from the research:

One of ING’s key findings was that social media decreases the reliability of the news, which wasn’t surprising to learn. What was surprising however was the willingness of journalists to publish first and correct later. In an era of real-time updates, journalists are increasingly willing to make an edit or recant a statement post-publishing than risk being “scooped” and come out behind the story. Social Embassy found that a worrisome 45% of journalists said that the majority of their work is published first and corrected later and only 1/5 always fact check before publishing. This begs the question: is the ability to easily edit and delete eliminating reliability?

The takeaway here is that up-to-the-minute updates often come at a price. Being the first to report the news has always been important to journalists but with social media, where anyone can post at any time, accuracy often suffers.

When asked, 53% of PR professionals said that social media posts were a reliable source of information while 40% of journalists agreed with the same statement. With so much competition, this drop in reliability could be due to the race to publish—and it isn’t ending any time soon. In fact, the Associated Press has even gone so far as to automate stories to get them up even faster.

In the less formal social media setting, 60% of journalists said that they felt less bound by journalistic rules and more willing to share their personal opinions than in traditional media outlets. While this might be liberating for reporters, it has the potential to be confusing for readers. If you follow a reporter on twitter will you always be able to distinguish when they are tweeting fact or opinion?

The study noted that 50% of journalists trusted consumer opinion to be a more reliable source than vendor statements, something we hear from reporters often. Social Media has made it possible for journalists to bypass vendor comments and get the opinion of consumers directly, an asset for reporters and an obstacle for PR professionals.

So what’s the bottom line? Reliable or not, social media has become a principal factor in reporting and spreading news, and it’s here to stay. 75% of the PR professionals surveyed said they could not do their jobs without social media, and 56% said that social media has reduced the impact of traditional media.

What are the expectations looking forward?

  • According to the study, journalists expect crowd-checking, using public opinion as fact, to grow in importance and be used more than fact-checking in the future.
  • Tweets, photos, and Facebook posts are already being incorporated in the news and looking forward that will only increase. Content generated from bystanders in real-time is more reliable than after-the-fact interviews and often more effective for storytelling.
  • Press Releases will become less of a focus and PR pros will spend more time building relationships and constantly engaging in dialogue
  • Perhaps the most discouraging finding that I noticed from the study was that journalism is trending more towards being driven by clicks and views than the quality of content.

While this study was small and made up of less than 400 international PR pros and journalists, I think that this study is a pretty accurate representation of where our industry is headed. Readers across the board are starting to want shorter news pieces with up to the minute updates, rather than longer more narrative stories. That being said I would be very interested in seeing a more targeted study that focuses specifically on the future of tech media.

What do you think? Will rapid-fire social media practices actually be the end of traditional journalism?


Sally McHugh
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