The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has issued a report that tracks and compares how social media and traditional media cover the news (go here for the full report). Based on a year of data collecting, the insights are a must-read for communicators who manage media relations and those who handle releases of news through social media. You'll want to adjust your assumptions and your communications planning as a result of these findings:
- The news cycle gets short, and quantified. Social media's very short turnaround of news mirrors what consumers of news want on the web. From the report: "On blogs, 53% of the lead stories in a given week stay on the list no more than three days. On Twitter that is true of 72% of lead stories, and more than half (52%) are on the list for just 24 hours."
- Mainstream news isn't picking up on news generated online, yet. In the year studied, just the disclosure of "climate-gate" emails from climate change scientists got traction in mainstream news media after its disclosure and buzz in the blogosphere.
- Social media news isn't trying to mirror mainstream news, either. The report notes, "Blogs overlap more than Twitter, but even there only about a quarter of the top stories in any given week were the same as in the 'MSM'."
- News on social networks varies depending on the social network. So, while all social media news coverage takes a different tack from mainstream media coverage, each channel--YouTube, Twitter, etc.--has its own brand of coverage in terms of topics, duration and even how it's consumed and shared. It pays to get to know each channel just as you'd once have studied each network. For example, the most popular YouTube news videos have a decided international flavor: More than one-quarter of the top-watched news videos there were of non-U.S. events.
UPDATE: Amy Gahran adds excellent perspective on this study, noting--correctly--that there are many blogs which offer real news reporting, but aren't categorized as "news sites." I agree. Take the time to read her analysis of the shortcomings of the Pew study and its data collection, and keep those factors in mind when making your decisions on what comes next for your organization.