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September 18, 2012updated 20 Sep 2012 5:50pm

Study: 28% of journalists unable to carry out job without social media

By Andrew Pugh

  • 28 per cent of journalists say social media is essential for the job
  • Magazine journalists least likely to use social networking sites
  • Fewer journalists believe social media increases productivity
  • Broadcast journalists use social media the most

A new study has found that more than a quarter of UK journalists now believe they would be unable to carry out their job without social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.

But while 28 per cent of UK journalists said social media was essential for the job, the annual survey by communications company Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University suggested fewer journalists believed social media improved their productivity, with the figures dropping from 49 per cent last year to 39 per cent in 2012.

The percentage of people who disagreed with the statement that “social media improves productivity” rose from 20 per cent to 34 per cent, and journalists were also more negative about the impact of social media on relationships with their audiences.

The number of people who “strongly agreed” that social networking sites allowed greater engagement fell from 43 per cent to 27 per cent


The 2012 Social Journalism Study found that “social media is embedded in most UK journalists’ daily work routine", adding: “The majority of them use two or three social media tools regularly for professional tasks,” the report found.

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“The most popular social media tools are microblogs, namely Twitter, professional social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, and social networking sites, such as Facebook. 47.9 per cent of respondents had more than 500 followers/friends on their preferred social networking or microblogging site, and only 13.7 per cent had fewer than 100 followers/friends.

“Nearly half of UK journalists post original comments on social networking or microblogging sites daily, and more than four in ten manage a professional, work-related social networking or microblogging account on a daily basis (Figure 2). More than half of them re-post on a microblogging site, monitor discussions on social media about their own content and reply to comments they receive on social media either on a daily or weekly basis. Maintaining a work-related blog is less popular, only a quarter of respondents blogging on at least a weekly basis. " 


Elsewhere, the research found that “those reaching local audiences are more likely to post original content on a social networking site than those reaching international audiences (57.4 per cent as opposed to 42.4 per cent daily use) and to monitor social media discussions about their own content (49.6 compared to 34.4 per cent daily use)".

The media sector that journalists work in also had a big impact on the level of engagement with social media

Broadcast journalists “reported the longest hours of social media use and magazine journalists the shortest”, with online journalists the most likely to maintain a work-related blog daily (18.1 per cent) and magazine journalists the least (5.3 per cent).

Magazine journalists were also the least likely to post original content on a social networking site on a daily basis (37.5 per cent) compared to online journalists (59.7 per cent) and newspaper journalists (50.6 per cent).

They were also the least likely to monitor social media discussions about their own content on a daily basis (26 per cent) compared to online journalists (50.8 per cent), broadcast journalists (37.5 per cent) and newspaper journalists (37.3 per cent).

Age is another major influence – those aged 27 and under use social media for work 1.5  times longer than the over 45s.

“This younger age group also has more followers/friends. 57.1 per cent of those aged less than 27 years have more than 500 followers/friends on their preferred social networking or microblogging site, compared with 31.8 per cent of those aged more than 45.

“Younger media professionals are also more likely to start following someone on social media they have met in person (19 per cent) compared to only 7.2 per cent for those aged over 45. Younger professionals are also more likely to monitor social media discussions about their own content (53.2 per cent as opposed to 26.6 per cent).”

Here are some other key findings from the report, which can be downloaded here:

Magazine journalists are the least positive about the impact of social media on their work (42.1 per cent saw the impact generally positive) while online journalists are the most upbeat about social media (57.6 per cent positive views).

25.2 per cent of newspaper journalists and 23.7 per cent of magazine journalists thought that they would not be able to carry out their work without social media, while the figure for online journalists was 43.6 per cent.

Online journalists are much more likely to agree (69.2 per cent) that because of social media they communicate better with people relevant to their work compared to magazine journalists (55.3 per cent) and newspaper journalists (54.7 per cent).

In general, younger journalists are more positive about the impact of social media compared to their older counterparts. 61.9 per cent of those aged below 27 years old saw the impact of social media on their work positively, compared with 38.4 per cent of those older than 45.

The survey also asked journalists about their views on the impact of social media on their profession. 40 per cent of respondents agreed that social media is undermining traditional journalistic values, such as objectivity.

Views about crowdsourcing varied, with 23.7 per cent agreeing that crowdsourcing improves the quality of journalism and 29 per cent disagreeing. Most UK journalists, however, agreed that social media will not lead to the death of professional journalism.


The study found five types of professional social media users among journalists who differ in terms of patterns of use, knowledge, purpose of use and attitudes:

  • Architects (11.8 per cent) are the movers and shakers of the professional social media world;
  • Promoters (24.7 per cent) are heavy users focusing mainly on disseminating and advocating their work;
  • Hunters’ (34.9 per cent) social media use is driven by an emphasis on sourcing information as well as finding contacts and networking;
  • Observers (18.8 per cent) are lighter users who are not keen contributors in the social media world but do use the tools to find information and monitor what’s going on;
  • Sceptics (9.8 per cent) are low users who have generally negative attitudes towards the use and the impacts of social media.

Methodology: The report is based on 769 responses from UK journalists. The proportion of male and female respondents is 56 per cent and 44 per cent respectively. The majority fell in the 28-45 age bracket (see Figure 9). Magazine journalists (38.5 per cent) and journalists who publish online (33.6 per cent) made up two thirds of the sample. Respondents were more likely to work for large organisations (37 per cent) but there is a range of different professional settings. Almost 44 per cent of respondents worked for media aimed at international audiences, 37.5 per cent targeting national audiences and 18.3 per cent worked in the local and regional media sector.



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