Social News Now Making Headlines!
Think back. How did you find out about the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center? This author clearly remembers seeing a quick flash on a journalist website and then running to turn on the television set. As the tragedy continued to unfold, major television broadcasting was the primary source of information for most Americans. However, the initial streaming message on the journalist website provided an early glimpse into what has now, over a decade later, revolutionized the way Americans receive news and information…via the Internet. But not just any Internet resource. Over a decade ago, online press releases were relatively new and reserved for a few professional associations on an “as needed basis”. This was the same method that major media outlets including television news and newspapers received their information from journalists and reporters around the globe. Although cutting edge at the time, the headline alone only provided a quick link to a raw, unedited report of the unfolding tragedy. Photographs, much less video footage, was still easier to access via the television news report.
Today all that has changed. Not only do people increasingly turn to the Internet for all their news and information, but more specifically…social media. As a social media marketing firm that routinely works with both large and small business concerns, a growing part of our duties involves getting the news out to the general public. Once considered the domain of journalists, social media is now increasingly viewed as the primary source of news information for the American public. Our novel observations are supported by the research conducted by Pew Research Center; social media is replacing traditional television, radio and newspapers as a primary source of news and information.
Old News versus New
When it comes to the source of news, social media is clearly on an upward trajectory just as traditional sources continue to demonstrate a rather dramatic decline. Just a decade ago, television, radio and newspapers represented the primary source of all news and information for the general public. Today, over 50% of people report social media was the primary source of breaking news with 46% of people indicating they receive news online at least 3 times per week. What does this mean for the financial status of traditional news outlets? We hate to be the bearer of bad news but online news has just surpassed print revenue as of the first quarter of this year. In fact, 2012 may be the year which finally breaks the collective back of what was once considered a nearly impossible media monopoly held by the movers and shakers in the traditional news industry.
The New Newsmakers
So, which social media sites are responsible for informing the majority of the online population? The results might surprise you. Although social media is certainly gaining ground, the primary source of news still includes TV…in part, due to aggressive use of social media in combination with traditional media formats.
Television News: Just under 60% of respondents surveyed still indicate television news as their primary source of information but that often includes online or mobile viewing of video content. In fact, total traffic to news related sites was steadily declining until 2009 at which point most major media outlets became early adopters of social media and viral video formats.
Newspapers: It’s probably not a surprise to learn that many newspapers are in big trouble across the nation. Printing costs have continued to climb just as people carry less cash and are more mobile. The result has been a continued – and dramatic – decline in subscription rates and increase in advertising fees. A poor combination to be sure. Still, old habits tend to die hard with nearly 30% of the population still indicating newspapers are a major source of new information. On the other hand, the survey failed to distinguish between online access to local news stories versus actual print formats; a surprising oversight given the rush to digitize local news.
Social Media: With less than 1 percentage point difference, social media and newspapers are neck and neck for second place in this survey. The difference is social media is enjoying an upward trajectory and newspapers are on a slippery slope downward.
Radio: Whether you love it or hate it, radio is suffering with a mere 18% of people reporting radio as a source of news and information.
Other Print: Magazines, journals and other print publications come in a distant (and somewhat dismal) 6% of those surveyed. In the future this may change somewhat due to the inclusion of mobile app’s and adoption of social media by many magazines but for the time being, there are few advantages to breaking news in such slow method. Plain and simple; magazines have an extensive delay time that makes news obsolete by the time it reaches readers.
Time is of the Essence
The problem with magazines exemplifies the major problems associated with traditional news: time. Magazines, by their very nature, require a fairly extensive lead time to get the story in print and distributed to subscribers. Compare that to Twitter; in fact, by tracing it backwards, we now know that the very first person to tweet about the capture of Osama Bin Laden was a neighbor who complained about the noise…and broke one of the biggest stories in a decade. In fact, a review of big news broadcast by social media shows a veritable “who’s who” of movers and shakers; The death of Whitney Houston, the Egyptian Uprising and even the recent passing of a beloved mainstream of media…Dick Clark. years from now the question won’t be “what were you doing when you heard the news” but “where were you when you heard the news?” With social media, the news will find you – anywhere, anytime.