The State Of The News Media Is Social As Ever

June 29, 2016
Pew data

Courtesy of Pew Research Center

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released its annual State of the News Media report, which is akin to Christmas for a journalism-data nerd like me.

Although I think the entire report should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the current media landscape, I’ll call attention to one particularly important stat in the article: A majority of adults in the United States (62 percent) now get the majority of their news via social media.

Unsurprisingly, this is an increase from the last time the data was gathered in 2013, and it tells us something about how we should be thinking about delivering the most meaningful, engaging content to audiences. I think we’ve known for several years now that simply building a nice website and filling it with great stories and content is no longer going to work.

My colleagues and I have spent a lot of time over the past year learning to understand how teens use Snapchat to connect with content. (Pony Sam Tuttle’s interview with her brother about his Snapchat practices is a nice little window into this world.) Snapchat content is ephemeral, as most people know, but a good Snapchat story can truly make a connection and have meaning for the person viewing it. Snapchat stories can give you a behind-the-scenes, exclusive peak at a brand or a person’s life. Snapchat fans love it for the raw, in-the-moment feel and ability to peek behind the curtain, so to speak. There is an art to Snapchat storytelling and delivery.

From Pew Research Center 2016 report.

From Pew Research Center 2016 report.

Just as brands have realized how to connect to consumers on Snapchat, many reporters have figured out that Snapchat is a great way to connect with an audience, and even though we think of that audience as primarily 12-to-25-year-olds, I’d be willing to bet that your grandma will be Snapping sometime in the next two years, too. (Mom already is.)

I was proud to work on another storytelling effort with our client, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, in which we spotlighted the innovative work Blue Cross supports across the state. The Blue Cross Trailblazer Tour launched a few weeks ago and will roll out over the entire summer. Each week, a new story will be unlocked in a new locale showcasing all the ways that Blue Cross works (often with partners) to promote health equity. Although the stories live on a website of their own, we expect that most audience members will be led to their next tour stop via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Granted, these examples are from marketing rather than journalism, but these are lessons we all must heed, given the state of the news media in 2016. We no longer live in an age where people set their home page to their favorite news source – nor do we live in an age where a news app is the first (or second or third) opened app on your phone. Rather, social media has become the gateway to readers. Social strategy should not be a secondary piece of content strategy, but rather, something that is considered as the story develops, keeping in mind the demographic details of your audience all the while. The best way to reach an audience with meaningful content depends almost as much on your distribution savvy as your ability to tell the story.