A recent survey of journalists in North America conducted by Brodeaur, a unit of Omnicom Group, in conjunction with Marketwire, finds that "blogs are not only having an impact on the speed and availability of news, but also influence the tone and editorial direction of reporting."
I met Jerry Johnson of Brodeaur last year in the comments section of John Moore's blog Brand Autopsy. We struck a great conversation by email and I learned more about his work and agency life as I was in the process of updating my resume.
When I saw the results of this survey I thought of checking Jerry's blog and sure enough, he just spoke at a panel at CES on this very topic -- taking the blogosphere seriously.
According to Jerry, the usefulness of blogs, you won't be surprised to learn, is in filling ethnographic research and understanding the context in which the news lives, the story around the news blip, so to speak. In fact, the findings from the survey highlight how:
- The biggest impact of blogs is in the speed and availability of news.
- Over half also said that blogs were having a significant impact on the “tone” (61.8%) and “editorial direction” (51.1%) of news reporting.
We'd like to think that news reporting is completely unemotional and factual. Research should uncover those factual data points, although I hear all the time from contacts I have in the news business that research budgets are being cut. What sells in my experience is the human connection, the story, and in regional markets the local angle.
That is why nearly 70 percent of all reporters check a blog list on a regular basis. Over one in five (20.9%) reporters said they spend over an hour per day reading blogs. And a total of nearly three in five (57.1%) reporters said they read blogs at least two to three times a week.
Journalists are increasingly active participants in the blogosphere. One in four reporters (27.7%) have their own blogs and nearly one in five (16.3%) have their own social networking page. Robin Hamman's and Bruno Giussani's blogs, for example, are filled with useful information. About half of reporters (47.5%) say they are "lurkers" -- reading blogs but rarely commenting.
I have been pleasantly surprised when journalists have referred to this blog. After almost twenty years spent pitching stories to the media, it is interesting to become part of the media. Of course, in a social media sense, with the limited time and resources I have to research, write and edit my own stories here. While it's easy to do with a small budget, time and attention are a factor.
I have gained a whole new appreciation for the hard work of finding the angle in stories. Mind you, with millions of people (and even if they were thousands) looking for material to publish, the originality is firmly grounded on individual experience and voice -- or it should be.
In addition to research resources that gives them the opportunity to fill out a story, the other difference that gives journalists a big advantage over bloggers is of course distribution. Let me give you an example from my own experience.
In July I wrote about how the iPhone was good news for consumers. In fact, it may be great news as Steve Jobs negotiated a pretty tough deal for AT&T on behalf of Apple, and incidentally perhaps to benefit all of us. Things may still be not on par with what consumers get in Europe, but it was a step in the right direction. I was barely a blip on the radar and building on a story I found in the news. Wired just blew the story on the wireless industry wide open. The deal Jobs negotiated, in a nutshell:
In return for five years of exclusivity, roughly 10 percent of iPhone sales in AT&T stores, and a thin slice of Apple's iTunes revenue, AT&T had granted Jobs unprecedented power. He had cajoled AT&T into spending millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to create a new feature, so-called visual voicemail, and to reinvent the time-consuming in-store sign-up process.
If you take the time to read the article, you will know why journalists read new media for reference only at this point. The story is an in depth look behind the scenes. Let me end in a similar fashion to that article. The very development that news media outlets feared for so long may prove to be exactly what they need. With a little imagination and desire to re-imagine the news business, everyone could win. And that is just fine with me.