The full digital tool-set is now in use in newsrooms and editorial offices around the world – with far-reaching implications for the public relations industry, the latest Oriella Digital Journalism Study has found.
Back at the first part of this century we worked for one of the first online tech news outfits and broke a considerable number of technology stories online ahead of local media. A columnist for a local publication said it probably gave established traditional print news outlets morning headaches. Now, however, most news organizations understand the importance of breaking news online.
A ‘digital first’ policy, breaking news online as it happens, is in place at over a third of the media titles surveyed with use of mobile apps, in-house produced video and social media as a news source all on the rise.
The Oriella Digital Journalism Study, based on a survey of almost 550 journalists from 15 countries spanning Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, tracks how digital technology is impacting how news is gathered and published around the world.
Wholesale changes in gathering and reporting news
This year’s study – the sixth – provides evidence of wholesale changes in how publications gather and communicate stories. This year’s study further found a quarter of the journalists surveyed often prepare multiple versions of the same story as it develops, while a fifth said that ‘citizen journalism’ now carries as much credibility in their organization as mainstream reporting.
Digital media is also shaping publications’ revenue models. The proportion of respondents saying their outlet has a mobile app has nearly doubled over the past two years to 40 percent. In addition, use of premium apps to monetize content has increased by a third since 2012.
Robin Grainger, Director of the Oriella PR Network, said: “Our study suggests 2013 is a watershed year for the world’s media. The growing interest in ‘digital first’ reporting, video, real-time news, mobile content and citizen journalism all exemplify what we’re calling the ‘New Normal for News’.”
“If these trends accelerate, there are some potentially game-changing ramifications for media and communicators alike. First, touch-screen interfaces will open up new possibilities for storytelling. One example could be interactive graphics (or ‘digi-graphics’) which blend high design and big data to enable readers to navigate their own path through stories.”
“Second, we may see a polarisation of journalistic output. At one end short, ‘tweet-like’ news updates will provide near real-time coverage of events in print and on video, optimized for small screens.
At the other end, we may see much longer-form feature and investigative pieces. ‘Shorter but quicker’ journalism could also afford media brands greater prominence – and consequently greater traffic – in search rankings, news readers and ‘social news aggregator’ apps such as Flipboard and Pulse News.”
Amid the technology change, traditional values remain
The study finds that journalists are using social media for newsgathering, but continue to place an emphasis on trusted sources and pre-existing relationships.
For example, 51 percent of journalists said they source new stories from microblogs, such as Twitter and Weibo, but only when they already know the source behind them.
When the source is unknown, their use by journalists halved, to 25 percent. By contrast, 59 percent of respondents said they sourced their news from conversations with industry insiders.
The sources most trusted by journalists were academics and other experts, who were trusted by 70 percent of journalists; technical experts in companies (trusted by 63 percent) and analysts (trusted by 49 percent). Generally, we’ve found, academics and technical experts are much more oriented toward telling what they see as the truth than other sources, so this makes sense.
Company CEOs were trusted by only 41 percent, and actually distrusted by one in eight journalists. The least trusted individuals were politicians, PR professionals, heads of marketing, and community managers – all of whom were more distrusted than trusted by journalists (see chart).
Personally, we’ve had nearly all of these sources attempt to mislead us over the years. A CEO, PR pro, or politician will outright lie if they think they can get away with it – and some will do it even knowing you’re aware that they’re lying or fudging the truth. That’s why multiple sources are important on stories where there is any doubt.
Journalists’ attitudes to their job
Despite all the changes occurring within newsrooms, the study found journalists remain upbeat about their jobs. Thirty-four percent said they believed digital media had improved the quality of their journalism over the past two years. However, the digital model is creating headaches for many of them: almost a third (32 percent) agreed that they are finding it harder to keep abreast of events on social media.
Grainger continued: “For all the technological change, the fundamental role of journalism remains the same – to gather evidence from sources, build narratives, and then convey them.
What has changed, however, are the tools at their disposal. The brands that achieve cut-through in the ‘New Normal for News’ will be those keeping abreast of these changes. They will be the ones that integrate their storytelling – using conventional text, video, graphics and interactive content – as well as harnessing the social media profiles of their own people, and those of key influencers around them.”