Three new studies document the changing way in which journalists practice their craft, for better and for worse:
- New research by the Society for New Communications Research and Middleberg Communications finds that seven in 10 of journalists are using social networking sites for research and reporting, a 28% increase over the previous year. Twitter use was up 25% and two in three journalists read blogs. Maybe more importantly, 80% of the journalists surveyed “believe that bloggers have become important opinion-shapers in recent years” and more than 90% “agree that new media and communications tools and technologies are enhancing journalism to some extent.” Researchers surveyed 341 journalists but didn’t say if the sample base was US-only or international.
- Another new study, this one by media monitoring company Cision and Don Bates of The George Washington University, finds that nearly nine in 10 journalists use blogs for story research, 65% turn to social media sites and 52% tap into Twitter. Remarkably, the survey also found that 61% use Wikipedia despite popular doubts about the crowdsourced encyclopedia’s reliability. There’s a caveat, though. While reporters turn to social media for sourcing, they don’t necessarily trust the information they find there. Researchers noted that 84% of respondents said social media sources are “slightly less” or “much less” reliable than traditional media, with half said social media suffers from “lack of fact checking, verification and reporting standards.”
- Finally, a Columbia Journalism Review survey of 665 consumer magazines finds that online content isn’t fact-checked or copy-edited as rigorously as printed content. Nearly half the respondents to the survey said their copy-editing standards are lower for online content compared to print and 11% don’t copy-edit online material at all. More than one-quarter of the respondents also said they’re less careful about fact-checking the information they publish online. CJR researchers attribute this to the primacy of speed in the digital publishing world, which causes publishers to cut corners on little things like getting stuff right. On a side note: only one-third of the online magazines are profitable and of those that are making money, nearly two-thirds give away all their content. Here’s a link to the full report on the CJR site.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School turns one of its professors loose on The New York Times’ paywall plans. Marketing Professor Peter S. Fader says the Times shouldn’t have abandoned Times Select three years ago; it was a decent service that could have given management valuable experience in how to generate reader revenue streams. Now it’s starting from square one in a very visible and risky position. Fader thinks the Times is doing the right thing in making most of its content free to the casual reader, but announcing the pay wall a year in advance with so few specifics is a “terrible mistake.” The Times is “being completely vague about the pricing, about the specific timing, about the name of it, about what kind of content is or isn’t covered,” Fader says. It’s also focusing on the negatives – what you can’t read – as opposed to the benefits of a subscription system. However, he doesn’t offer up any benefits that the Times can talk about, other than the brand’s continued viability. It sounds like the short-term perspective is dominating the Times’ thinking, Fader says. “They need to be thinking, ‘How can we delight our customers three, five, ten years from now?’ as opposed to, ‘How can we squeeze revenues out of them to stay afloat over the next month?’”
A new study funded by the Newspaper Association of America finds that newspaper sites are considered the most reliable sources local information, including classified advertising. Local newspaper Web sites were identified as “the top online source for local information” by 57% of the 3,050 respondents to the survey, which was conducted by ComScore. Four in 10 respondents also agree that the source of an online advertisement is an important factor in its trustworthiness and in that category, newspapers (36%) bested local television (23%) and online local portals (12%) by a significant margin. Newspapers also beat all other local channels in credibility and value information, although the principal challenger – television news – isn’t much competition.
Rutgers professor Benjamin Davis wants to reinvent the inverted pyramid with a digital touch. In a piece in Online Journalism Review, the educator recounts some interesting historical facts about the news reporting style that places the most important information at the top and proceeded backward from there, including the fact that telegraph messages during the Civil War cost as much as a penny apiece. His “Digital Media Pyramid” still leads with the most critical information but then proceeds through layers of aggregated and multimedia content. It even accounts for advertising awareness, which Davis explains as teaching “the writer to be aware of any ads automatically placed near or inside a written story, so the writer can inspect a story’s presentation and seek to maintain objectivity.” We’re not sure what that last part means but trust that doesn’t involve pulling punches to avoid embarrassing and advertiser.
Robin Good interviews three futurists about the evolution of journalists into what he calls “newsmasters.” All three commentators agree that the problem that media was created to solve — lack of information — has been displaced by the opposite problem; we’re now swimming in information. This means that the role of media must change to provide aggregation and filtering rather than pushing out more original information. The best example of this evolution comes from educational technologies researcher George Siemens, who notes that when Microsoft was originally planning to bring its Encarta encyclopedia to market, it envisioned prices of over $1,000. When the company finally shuttered Encarta last year, it was charging just $19.95.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 at 10:47 am and is filed under Future of Journalism, Journalism, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.