Social media has become “indispensable” for journalists, says the latest State of the Media report.
The annual report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism highlights the importance of social media to news organisations. At the time of publication, 184 news organisations had designated social media editors.
“In 2012, social media continued to expand its role in the news ecosystem, establishing itself as an indispensable tool for distributing content and attracting new readers, as well as for building deeper engagement with current ones,” said the 2013 State of the Media report.
About a fifth of Americans saw news on social media, with the number rising to 34 per cent for 18-24 year olds.
Mobile is partly behind the growth of social media. Just under half of smartphone users and around 40 per cent of 39% of tablet users get some of their news through a social network.
Traffic in absolute numbers remains modest, at an average of 9 per cent. But the numbers vary greatly on the publication.
The Huffington Post is by far the most successful at social media engagement, with more than 2,500 stories with at least 100 Facebook interactions. The number is almost double that of its closest competitor, the Daily Mail.
The Pew report identified another growing trend – social media as a second screen experience for TV viewing. CNN lead the mentions on social media, followed by Fox News, MSNBC and NBC.
But it also found points out how some social media initiatives have stumbled, such as Facebook social readers. But Pew goes on to suggest that new Facebook features “could nevertheless increase the site’s importance for news organizations.”
While Facebook and Twitter remain key services for the media, the report warns that “concentrating on those two sites alone may no longer be enough.”
It points out how news organisations have used platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram to visuals, from mug shots of police wanted by the police to pictures from the presidential campaign.
At a time of newsroom cutbacks and dwindling resources, social media offers both opportunities and challenges.
“In an era of limited resources, however, the seemingly endless array of new platforms raises a challenge for news organizations: Just how much time should they devote to social media – and where should their resources be concentrated?” asks the Pew Report.