A new study has revealed the extent to which journalists from around the world are using social media both as a source of news, and to verify stories already being worked on. In their Digital Journalism Study, Oriella surveyed 600 journalists and discovered that more than half (55 percent) used social channels such as Twitter and Facebook to find stories from known sources, and 43 percent verified existing stories using these tools. 26 percent of respondents said that they used social media to find stories from sources they did not know, and almost one in five (19 percent) verified work in progress from sources unknown to them. The figures are even higher in the UK, with 75 percent of journalists using social media to research news from known sources. 52 percent of journalists said their employer’s titles had Facebook pages, while 46 percent had professional Twitter profiles. Oriella’s findings have been documented in an infographic, which takes a closer look at digital journalism today.
The Pew Research Center has come out with a massive new report on the state of media as part of its Project for Excellence in Journalism, and it comes to a number of conclusions about where the industry stands—including the fact that Twitter and Facebook are still driving a fairly small amount of traffic to media outlets (although this segment is growing quickly) and that such tech giants as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft control almost 70 percent of online advertising. But one other thing that becomes clear from the Pew report is just how big a role aggregators of all kinds—both human and machine-powered—are playing in news consumption.
Despite the growing evidence to the contrary, many newspaper companies and other traditional media outlets still seem to think the vast majority of their audience comes to them directly and prefers to read their content above all other sources. More than anything else, this is the core philosophy behind the rise of paywalls—which more and more papers are implementing—and also the millions of dollars media companies have poured into developing iPad apps and other walled-garden-style approaches to news delivery. The assumption is that readers will want only the content that comes from that specific outlet.
For many consumers, however, aggregators of various kinds are the way they consume their news now, whether through Web-based portals like Yahoo News or Google News, or through a variety of newer aggregation-based apps and services, such as Flipboard, Pulse, or Zite for the iPad, as well as News.me, Summify (which was recently acquired by Twitter), and Percolate. According to the Pew report, almost 30 percent of consumers get their news from a “news organizing website or app,” compared with the 36 percent who go directly to a media company’s website or app.
In effect, many users seem to be looking to generate their own digital-newspaper-style overview of the world rather than accepting one from a single media outlet, and if the content they are looking for comes from an aggregator like the Huffington Post because the original is behind a paywall, then so be it. The problem for media companies is that this kind of behavior is in direct conflict with most of the business models they’re relying on for revenue, whether it’s advertising or app- and paywall-based subscription services—which is why such media moguls as News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch continually accuse Google of “piracy.”
And the problem is actually even bigger than that, since the Huffington Post and Google News are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aggregation and/or curation. Although Facebook and Twitter may not be huge factors in terms of news consumption at the moment—as my colleague Staci has pointed out at paidContent—with only 9 percent of users saying they get their news from those networks, that figure has grown almost 60 percent in the past year alone and is likely continuing to increase.
To some extent the curation phenomenon is helping mainstream news organizations, because people are sharing links that get clicked on and drive traffic back to news outlets. This is especially the case with Twitter, since the Pew report notes that a larger proportion of users follow official media sources there, while a majority of Facebook users get their news from friends and family members. But just as with aggregation apps and services, the content that any single media company produces just becomes part of the sea of content that is distributed through these networks.
On top of that, Facebook itself is becoming much more of an aggregator of news, through the “social reading” apps it offers from such outlets as the Washington Post and the Guardian. Although both newspapers have bragged about the number of people who have registered for their apps and shared content through them, the reality is that much of the benefit from that activity ultimately goes to Facebook—in terms of the time users spend on the site, the advertising they are exposed to, etc.—rather than the news outlet.
Emily Bell, the former Guardian digital editor who now runs the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, noted in a response to the Pew report on Twitter that social platforms like Facebook are becoming “frenemies” with media companies, since they generate traffic but also suck up much of the benefit in terms of advertising.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has teamed up with the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation to introduce Facebook and Twitter content to its programmes as part of the broadcaster’s social media strategy. ABC’s manager of new media services, Chris Winter, told Fairfax Media: “It’s about allowing people to engage a little more than they have been able to in the past with what they’re watching.
“One of the great prompters of conversation is what you’re watching on the telly. In the past we sat in the lounge room and talked to the person sitting next to us, in the future it will become easier and easier to engage with people who are not in the same room.” The broadcaster wants to engage with viewers using smartphones and tablet computers while watching TV content. Developed by National ICT Australia (NICTA), the technology can overlay online discussions currently occurring on Twitter discussion on top of any show across the ABC’s multiple channels.
Mashable, the popular Web site for information about technology and social media, said Tuesday that it was expanding coverage to include new sections for entertainment, United
States news and world news, and that it was hiring a veteran technology editor to oversee all editorial content. Lance Ulanoff, 47, the former editor of pcmag.com and senior vice president of content for Ziff Davis Web sites, will run day to day coverage at Mashable. He will work closely with Adam Ostrow, the current editor, who is moving into the position of executive editor, where he will continue to lead editorial strategy, Pete Cashmore, the chief executive and founder, said in announcing the changes. Mashable is now one of the largest and most influential online sites for social media and technology news, with 15 million unique visitors monthly. Its growth has been spurred by the estimated four million people who use social media to follow Mashable’s content and share it with their personal networks on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social sites. The site’s redesigned homepage, unveiled Tuesday, features tabs for the new sections alongside the existing content channels for social media, technology and business
Latest statistics suggest attempts to kick new life into MySpace may be failing.
Tech industry analysts comScore say figures show MySpace lost more than 10 million unique users worldwide between January and February. There were almost 63 million users of MySpace in February 2011, down from more than 73 million. Year on year the site has lost almost 50 million users, down from close to 110 million in February 2010. The loss of users comes despite a series of changes to the site to make it more about music.
It was the social network site that helped launch the careers of artists like Arctic Monkeys, Kate Nash and Lily Allen. But so far this year MySpace has already announced it is to cut half its workforce. Falling numbers. A round 500 staff are going worldwide. Five years ago it was booming and for many was the first place to visit to talk to friends and listen to music. But the arrival of sites likes Facebook has changed the face of social networking. In the UK, 2.3 million people used the site in February 2011.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought the company for £330 million back in 2005. If they were to sell today, they might get as little as £50 million for it. MySpace boss Mike Jones has been putting a brave face on the falling numbers. He said the site is no longer a social network and is instead an “entertainment destination”. But with competition from YouTube, streaming services and increased file-sharing it faces tough times.
Inspired by the recent Tunisian demonstrations against corruption, protesters are filling the streets of Cairo. And like the protests in Tunisia, the Egyptian ones were partly organized on Facebook and Twitter. And now Twitter appears to be blocked in Egypt, according to various Tweets and tips we’ve received. However, so far only the Twitter website itself is blocked (including the mobile site), but people in Cairo are still using Twitter third-party clients to keep on Tweeting. There are also reports of the entire mobile Web being blocked through mobile carriers, but at least one carrier, Vodafone Egypt, denies that it is blocking Twitter, attributing the problem to overloaded networks instead. Update: one tipster says Twitter apps are blocked as well and that the only way to Tweet is by using Web proxies. Update 2: Asked to confirm that Twitter is blocked in Egypt, Google PR points to this Herdict Report, which indicates that it is in fact inaccessible in that country.
Facebook is also being used to organize the demonstrations, with groups also popping up around the world to document the uprising and lend its support. For instance, one Facebook Group called We Are All Khaled Said, features up-to-the-minute updates on the protests and photos from the scene. Khaled Said was “a young man brutally tortured and killed by police in Alexandria,” explains Blake Hounshell on the Foreign Policy blog, and his death has become a rallying point for the demonstrations which fall on “Police Day,” a national holiday in Egypt.
Update: The Facebook Group is reporting that the police are firing at the protestors with rubber bullets.
Increasingly, social media is playing an important role in organizing and broadcasting protests against governments around the world. Unlike television or newspapers, Twitter and Facebook are not so easy to control other than blocking them entirely because of their distributed nature. By the time a regime realizes its only option is to block a service like Twitter, the protests are usually already well under way. And reports keep coming out via these channels anyway, making them the most immediate way to watch the protests (and sometimes subsequent uprisings) unfold. The reports may not always be accurate right away (confusing rubber bullets for “live ammunition,” for instance, but they tend to self-correct quickly.
Social networking website Facebook and Internet telephone company Skype are in talks to establish a partnership that is aimed at integrating their communication services, Wall Street Journal said, citing a person familiar with the situation. Under the proposed partnership, Facebook users would be able to sign into Skype through their Facebook Connect accounts, the Journal said. Once signed in, the users would be able to send text messages, voice chat and video chat with their Facebook friends from within Skype, according to the paper. The integrated functions are built into Skype’s 5.0 version, which is expected to be released in the next few weeks, the person told the paper. Enabling Skype’s voice and video chat on Facebook would be a “logical progression” to the partnership, the person told the paper.