The Rise of Social Media and Its Impact on Mainstream Journalism

Topics: Social media, Mass media, User-generated content Pages: 61 (21046 words) Published: April 16, 2013

e rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism:

A study of how newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and US are responding to a wave of participatory social media, and a historic shi in control towards individual consumers.

Nic Newman

September 2009

Executive summary and key conclusions 1. Framing the debate 2. Mainstream media motivations, doubts and dilemmas 2.1 Definitions and motivations 2.2 BBC 2.3 Guardian and Telegraph 2.4 New York Times 2.5 CNN 2.6 Comparisons of activity 2.7 Lessons and conclusions 3. Changing coverage 3.1 Iranian elections 3.2 G20 case study 4. Changing journalistic practice; telling stories with the audience 4.1 Robert Peston (BBC): Peston’s Picks blog 4.2 Jemima Kiss (Guardian): Twitter and technology 4.3 Additional perspectives on changing journalistic practice

5. The nature and importance of social networks for journalism 5.1 Popularity and usage 5.2 Changing nature of recommendation 5.3 Business models and the future of the social web 6. Conclusions and implications for mainstream organisations Bibliography and acknowledgments


The aftermath of the Iranian elections (June 2009) provided the latest example of how powerful new internet tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are changing the way media are produced, distributed and consumed. Usergenerated picture or video scoops regularly lead television bulletins and the front pages of newspapers, whilst a new category of opinionated blogging is redefining the frontiers of journalism itself. This study explores how mainstream media organisations are responding to this wave of participatory and social media, linked with a historic shift in control towards individual consumers. The paper examines how journalists at leading news organisations in the UK and USA are increasingly involving audiences in the way they research and tell stories. It explores the dilemmas and issues raised by greater audience engagement through case-study interviews with leading practitioners and managers, as well as drawing on previously published interviews and research. It looks at how mainstream media coverage of breaking news events is changing, using topical cases studies from the G20 London summit and Iranian street protests. There are six core conclusions from this study: 1. There has been an explosion of participation over the past two years (2007–9), driven by user-friendly internet tools, better connectivity and new mobile devices. Social Networking and UGC have become mainstream activities, accounting for almost 20 per cent of internet time in the UK and involving half of all internet users. This dramatic change has forced traditional news organisations to take note. 2. Social media and UGC are fundamentally changing the nature of breaking news. They are contributing to the compression of the ‘news cycle’ and putting more pressure on editors over what to report and when. News organisations are already abandoning attempts to be first for breaking news, focusing instead on being the best at verifying and curating it. 3. Journalists are beginning to embrace social media tools like Twitter, Blogs and Facebook, but very much on their own terms. ‘Same values, new tools’ sums up the approach in most mainstream organisations as they marry the culture of the web with their own organisational norms. Guidelines are being rewritten; social media editors and twitter correspondents are being appointed; training and awareness programmes are underway. 4. Social media, blogs and UGC are not replacing journalism, but they are creating an important extra layer of information and diverse opinion. Most people are still happy to rely on mainstream news organisations to sort fact from fiction and serve up a filtered view, but they are increasingly engaged by this information, particularly when recommended by friends or another trusted source. 5. Historically, participation in mainstream sites has focused on...

Bibliography: Tom Armitage (2006) ‘2007 and the "Next" Big Media Thing’, New Statesman ( Charlie Beckett, Supermedia: Saving Journalism so it can Save the World (Blackwell, 2008) Emily Bell, ‘Lecture to Falmouth’, blog, 8 May 2009, ( Patrick Butler, Ted W. Hall, Alistair M. Hanna et al., A Revolution in Interaction (McKinsey Quarterly, 1997). Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (W. W. Norton & Co., 2008) Andrew Currah, What’s Happening to our News: An Investigation into the Likely Impact of the Digital Revolution on the Economics of News Publishing (Challenges Paper; Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2009) Nick Davies, Flat Earth News (Chatto & Windus, 2008) William H. Dutton, Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age (Oxford University Press, 1999) –––– Through the Network of Networks: The Fifth Estate (Oxford Internet Institute, 2007) –––– Ellen Helsper and Monica Gerber, Internet in Britain 2009 (Oxford Internet Institute, 2009) Dan Gillmor, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People (O’Reilly Media, 2004) Nik Gowing, Skyful of Lies and Black Swans (Challenges Paper; Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2009). Alfred Hermida, ‘The Blogging BBC’, Journalism Practice (2009) –––– and Neil Thurman (2008) Gotcha: How Newsroom Norms are Shaping Participatory Journalism Online (Sussex University Press, 2008) Jeff Jarvis, foreword to Supermedia: Saving Journalism so it can Save the World (Blackwell, 2008) Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today 's Internet is Killing our Culture (Broadway Business, 2007) David Kline and Dan Burstein, Blog: How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business and Culture (CDS books, 2005) Charles Leadbeater, We Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production (Profile Books, 2008) Julio Ojeda-Zapata, Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging can Help or Hurt your Company (Lighting Source, 2008) Tim O’Reilly, ‘Blog on Definition Web 2.0’ ( Jeremiah K. Owyang (2009) The Future of the Social Web (Forrester Research, 2009) (,7211,46970,00.h tml) Alan Rusbridger, ‘Future of Journalism’, Institut für Medienpolitik in Berlin, 2009 ( Paul Saffo, ‘Farewell Information, it’s a Media Age’, 2007 ( Clay Shirky, ‘How Social Media can Make History’, TED conference address, 2009 ( can_make_history.html).
Mark Tremayne, ‘Harnessing the Active Audience: Synthesising Blog Research and Lessons for the Future of Media’, in Mark Tremayne (ed.), Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media (Routledge, 2007) Claire Wardle and Andrew Williams, UGC@theBBC: Understanding its Impact upon Contributors, Non-Contributors and BBC News (Cardiff University, 2009)
I am immensely grateful to all those who helped with this study, which was conducted in ten weeks or so in the summer of 2009. The topicality of the subject (particularly the emerging story of Iran) forced frequent rethinks of structure and focus and I am would like to thank my academic supervisors for their guidance and support. In particular I’d like to thank Bill Dutton at the Oxford Internet Institute for his suggestions and ideas and the staff at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, John Lloyd, James Painter and David Levy, for their consistent advice and encouragement. Thanks also to visiting fellows Andrew Currah, Robert Picard and Juan Señor, who helped to broaden my thinking. This study would not have been possible without the open participation of five of the world’s largest mainstream media organisations. I was delighted at the generosity with which senior executives and busy practitioners gave their time and insights. I am also indebted to academics and commentators, who were also hugely generous with their time and supportive of the enterprise as a whole. I would like to thank the BBC for continuing to encourage programmes such as the Reuters fellowship and allowing me space and time to develop detailed thinking in this area. And last, but not least, a heartfelt thank you to my wife Tamsin and the rest of the family for putting up with my long absences, preoccupied behaviour and overuse of 140 character communication.
WORKING PAPERS AND SELECTED RISJ PUBLICATIONS Henrik Örnebring Comparative European Journalism: The State of Current Research Henrik Örnebring The Two Professionalisms of Journalism: Journalism and the changing context of work Jeremy Hayes A Shock To The System: Journalism, Government and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Andrew Currah Navigating the Crisis in Local and Regional News: A critical review of solutions published in association with Ofcom Karl Erik Gustafsson, Henrik Örnebring and David Levy Press Subsidies and Local News: The Swedish Case published in association with Ofcom Steven Barnett Journalism, Democracy and the Public Interest: rethinking media pluralism for the Digital Age published in association with Ofcom Tim Gardam and David A. L. Levy (eds) The Price of Plurality: Choice, Diversity and Broadcasting Institutions in the Digital Age published in association with Ofcom John Lloyd and Julia Hobsbawm The Power of the Commentariat published in association with Editorial Intelligence Ltd CHALLENGES James Painter Counter-Hegemonic News: A case study of Al-Jazeera English and Telesur Floriana Fossato and John Lloyd with Alexander Verkhovsky The Web that Failed: How opposition politics and independent initiatives are failing on the internet in Russia Andrew Currah What’s Happening to Our News: an investigation into the likely impact of the digital revolution on the economics of news publishing in the UK Nik Gowing ‘Skyful of Lies’ and Black Swans: The new tyranny of shifting information power in Crises Stephen Coleman, Scott Anthony, David E Morrison Public Trust in the News: a constructivist study of the social life of the news Stephen Whittle and Glenda Cooper Privacy, Probity and Public Interest
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