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Traditional media is still important but we are less loyal to news brands

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 31st March 2010

The US Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has just produced its annual report on the ‘State of the News Media’, taking stock of what has happened to news organisations during the previous 12 months and providing a look into what lies ahead.

Whilst the results are US-biased, there are still some really interesting themes that are probably just as relevant for us on this side of the Atlantic. So we’ve pulled out some of the issues that caught our eye.

There’s life in the old dog yet: social media is really just a new distribution channel

This is something we bang on about all the time, but a major theme to emerge from the report is that, despite the rise of social media channels, ‘traditional media’ still dominates the media landscape. 80 per cent of links from blogs and social media sites are to US legacy media.

The report warns: “when it comes to audience numbers online, traditional media content still prevails, which means the cutbacks in old media heavily impact what the public is learning through the new.”

Social media helps us discover new sources of news

However, social media is changing the way we access news, with most consumers becoming less loyal to specific news brands. Only 35% of online news consumers have a favourite news site, with most using multiple sites on a regular basis. What’s more, we seem to be moving away from reading articles in-depth, with 44% of visitors to Google News admitting to just scanning headlines and not actually clicking on the articles.

Could this be because we are increasingly valuing the recommendations of our peers?  The vast majority, 75% of online news consumers, say they get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means. Just over half of social networking users (51%) say that on a typical day they get news items from people they follow.

News is social!

According to Pew, it’s not just brands that need to engage online, consumers are keen for news organisations to do the same. Some 37% of internet users have been involved in the creation of news, commentary about it, or dissemination of news via social media. They have done at least one of the following: commented on a news story (25%); posted a link on a social networking site (17%); tagged content (11%), created their own original news material or opinion piece (9%), or Tweeted about news (3%).

As the democratisation of news continues and the barriers of entry to blogging or micro-blogging are lowered, the focus is on creation and debate rather than just passive reading.

What does this mean for PR?

PRs need to bear in mind that despite the opportunities presented by the new, shiny social media channel, traditional media remains an incredibly powerful medium.  The irony is that falling advertising revenues means competition for editorial space is more intense than ever.  So the knack for PRs is to create compelling stories that people actively want to share.  Plus ca change!

picture credit

Danny Whatmough