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State of the Media analysis: Social media influencers named the number one threat to journalism

In November 2017, Collins Dictionary named Fake News as its word of the year, highlighting just how much this issue was at the forefront of public consciousness. Nearly two years on, and the issue has not dissipated, if anything it’s grown in prominence. For instance, UK-based Metro Bank Plc suffered a drop in share value by 10% after fake news implied the company was going into liquidation.

Whether it is impacting the corporate value of a company or spreading false facts that could impact the outcome of an election, journalists are under more pressure than ever before to ensure they are reporting the truth.

Accuracy over exclusivity
Every year, Cision conducts a State of the Media report, and the findings very much reflect the post-truth world we now live in. The report found that the number-one goal of journalism this year is to ensure that coverage is accurate, informative and reliable. Over half (51%) of journalists said that accuracy is more important to their publication than revenue, exclusivity and being the first to cover breaking news.

The prioritisation of accuracy over exclusivity may account for a perceived increase in trust in the media. When asked about the public’s distrust in the media, journalists were more optimistic than the previous year; 63% reported a perceived distrust in the media as opposed to 71% the year before.

This increased optimism is a positive step in the right direction, but there are still some barriers facing the media. The rise of social media influencers circumventing traditional media, and decreased resources were named as the top two threats to journalism – also threatening efforts for sourcing and creating accurate and reliable content.

The biggest challenges for journalism in the last 12 months

How PROs can help
The report found that 27% of journalists said their relationships with PR professionals had become more valuable in 2019. Looking specifically at how PROs can help journalists to overcome the barriers to achieve the goal of accurate reporting, ultimately, this is about PROs doing the basics and doing them well. If journalists receive robust, well-targeted stories that can play across multiple platforms, editorial mindshare and time will be freed up. That can only be good for PR and media relationships, and trust.

Delivering reliable data
Commenting on the findings, Steph MacLeod, director at PR agency Kaizo, echoes the sentiment of the PR industry stating that it’s “more important than ever to ensure that the content we provide is as trustworthy, relevant, timely and useful as possible.

“Take data and research for example. It’s the PRO’s job to ensure that any data or research we send on behalf of a client is reliable and trustworthy. There are many checks and balances to ensure that nothing reaches a journalist’s inbox without it passing due diligence testing.”

Distrust in the media is decreasing

Understand the new media landscape
It’s no secret that publishing has changed, with media outlets also relying on new mediums to attract and keep readership. Speaking on the importance of social media, Sharron Livingstone, managing editor at The Travel Magazine, says: “We use social media to promote our content every day. Having a good understanding of social media and indeed changing algorithms, is essential in achieving the exposure we aim to achieve.

“PR professionals should also have a thorough understanding of this. The story or data you pitch will not just be included in print or as part of an online article anymore. Ask yourself if you’ve packaged your content accordingly and, more importantly, is it designed so it definitely cannot be misconstrued by the reader. A stat in the context of an article might not translate into a Facebook post for instance.”

What is most important for your organisation?

Know your audience:
“How many people not only land on our content but what percentage of those people return and how often?” is a question Ellen Stewart, head of platforms at PinkNews, now focuses on just as much as readership figures itself. “For a specialist publisher such as PinkNews it is really important to listen to our audience. Content that really resonates with the community – the stories people share, comment on, write to us about – informs our editorial output.”

More than ever before, media outlets can get a better picture of their audience, and provide the content that resonates. Having established that journalists are time poor and limited on resources, PROs can make a difference by striving to understand what it is the audience really wants. Having this open dialogue with journalists and conducting due diligence research can help here, and will go some way to improving the fact that 75% of journalists still receive information from PROs that’s not relevant.

There’s a real appetite and drive for “true news” and accurate, relevant content. However, as the report highlights, achieving this is not without its hurdles. PR professionals work hand in hand with the media, often as a large and primary source of their information. Not only is it PROs’ responsibility to ensure its quality and reliability, but also understand the challenges journalists face - and adapt the style to ensure nothing gets in the way of delivering accurate information in today’s post-truth era.

Cision conducted its 2019 State of the Media Survey between February 5–7, 2019. Surveys were emailed to Cision Media Database members, which are vetted by the company’s media research team to verify their positions as media professionals, influencers and bloggers. The survey was also available to media professionals in the PR Newswire for Journalists database.

This year’s survey collected 1,999 total responses from across the media spectrum and in 10 different countries. 731 respondents were from the U.S., 206 were from Canada, 469 from the UK, 135 from France, 113 from Germany, 122 from Sweden, 97 from Finland, 28 from Brazil, 82 from Mexico, and 16 from UAE. Globally, 41% work in print (newspaper/magazine), 14% work in broadcast (TV/radio/podcast), 21% work for an online-only news outlet, 19% identified as individuals/personal bloggers/freelancers, and 5% work as a social media influencer.

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