U.K. journalists’ social media habits revealed in new survey

Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University recently conducted an online survey about the use of and attitude towards social media amongst journalists in the U.K.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | November 8, 2013

The report, based on 589 responses from U.K. journalists, shows that 96 percent of participants use social media daily as a professional tool, with Twitter “proving to be the quintessential media tool” with 92 percent using it regularly for work. There is great variation; however, in the ways in which journalists are using social media.

Sixty-three percent of U.K. journalists spend up to two hours a day on social media sites, with only 4 percent not using them at all, and 22 percent spending more than four hours a day on the sites. It is clear that social media use is expanding, use of sites has increased in terms of frequency and variety of different sites visited.

The figures also show an increase in number of followers on preferred social media sites. Last year, 48 percent of journalists had more than 500 followers on their preferred site, and this figure has risen to 62 percent this year. The number of those having no followers has decreased by 2 percent, and those with fewer than 100 decreased from 21 percent to 14 percent.

The survey reveals that there has been a change in what social media is used for; last year slightly more journalists were using social media for sourcing information (84 percent) rather than publishing and promoting (81 percent), this year the trend was the opposite with 91 percent using it for publishing and promoting and 89 percent for sourcing. Moreover, the amount that people use the sites for networking has risen by 13 percent, from 74 percent last year to 87 percent this year.

Interestingly, 42 percent of those asked said they would not be able to carry out their work without social media sites, and 80 percent agreed that they are now more engaged with their audience because of them. One participant said that social media “is changing … the ways you process and gather information and particularly [in that] you have a two way relationship with your audience and your news source.”

The survey also shows a generally positive outlook on social media’s influence on journalism, with 89 percent thinking that social media would not lead to the death of professional journalism – an increase from 77 percent last year. However, 34 percent thought that it does undermine certain journalistic values, such as objectivity, and 73 percent agreed that accuracy is the biggest problem with social media – although this has decreased from 80 percent last year. These shifts suggest that “as social media becomes embedded in everyday journalistic practices, perceptions about the tools have become more nuanced.”

The survey last year categorised five professional social media types: Promoters, Observers, Sceptics, Hunters and Architects. During the past year the number of Observers, Architects and Sceptics has increased, while the number of Promoters and Hunters has declined, indicating “a shift towards segmentation of social media users into heavy users on one end and more passive and low-level users on the other.”

It is clear that social media is now intrinsic to the way that the vast majority of journalists in the U.K. function and also that they are generally getting a better grasp on how to use it effectively. Moreover, the future seems promising, as does journalists’ outlook on the way that social media will continue to affect and be important to journalism.

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