The changing relationship between journalists and their audiences

A survey conducted among 130 journalists shows that the spotlight is shifting. Journalists engage heavily with readers directly, who in turn are more likely to follow the journalist rather than the publications.

Key findings

81%

Found a strong online presence to be very important

90%

Deemed newsletters to be relevant

66%

Of readers prefer following journalists rather than publications

Full report

Introduction

It’s no secret journalism has changed over the past few decades. It has slowly adapted to the social media age and other digital ways of communication. Back in the day, whenever a journalist would write a piece for the publication he or she works for, the distribution part of the process was completely taken care of by someone else. Given the significant shift from the print world to the digital one, this changed quickly. Now the previous model of getting one’s story out has changed and the spotlight falls on the individual journalist. The main publication is not necessarily the leading source of how people get their information anymore. Journalists have taken the initiative to seize an opportunity which the online realm has presented. Namely, to build their own brand and spread the word about their stories by themselves.

For instance, people like Nate Silver, Arianna Huffington, Kara Swisher or Ezra Klein are superstar journalists who have turned their own personal brand into publishing ventures. But what does that mean for the majority of journalists? In this case, is it still enough for them to write for their publications? Or do they, too, need a strong online presence?

We at Revue see journalists sending out regular personal newsletters, which made us think about those questions even more.That is why we set out to survey journalists, writers and bloggers in order to determine whether online presence is important for them and why. Also we wanted to investigate whether personal email newsletters are indeed a more commonly used form of reporting, storytelling and even communicating with readers. This topic is relevant now more than ever, given that traditional media is still around, yet it is not necessarily the predominant way of informing the public. Moreover, a strong online presence has been slowly becoming an absolute must for journalists in the past decade or so and it is essential to observe this important change in order to understand how journalists manage to create a successful brand for themselves.

”Email is a great way to generate a loyal and engaged audience in the digital world. That's hard to do when most of your traffic is coming to you via social and search. I think email is as close as we get to recreating the loyalty our magazines have.“ Alan Murray from Fortune CEO Daily

Results

An online presence remains important for journalists

A strong online presence has been important for journalists for quite a while now and that remains to be the case to this day. To put things in perspective, previous research has shown that in 2013 approximately 40% of American journalists said that being online is very important for their work. This also became evident in our own research. When it came to the perception that people have about the importance of a strong online media presence, a staggering 97% of our participants found it to be important to a certain extent. Thus, journalists consider a strong online presence to be important for their careers.

For them being actively online could entail being present on various social media channels, having a blog or sending out a newsletter and in general, establishing themselves as experts. Regardless of the multiple ways they can build their image online, this proves a point that in 2017, journalists, bloggers and writers recognize the necessity of being online and most importantly, being active.

Nevertheless, this presents an interesting question. Specifically, why is it becoming essential for journalists to maintain a strong online presence? Well, 69% of our participants consider a strong online presence to be beneficial when it comes to attracting more readers. Next in line is the notion that by being actively present online, a journalist can get noticed more easily. The other two options that were significantly popular amongst the participants are: (1) the beneficial factor for the bigger publication they work for and (2) the fact that it helps them with getting more assignments. One participant even shared that for him being online means:

“Becoming a 'brand' as a journalist is very important, I think. To have a signature, a specialty, an image. And I see that the journalists who post online a lot on social media, get more jobs than the ones that don't simply because they are visible and become and stay top of mind that way.”

Tweet this

Journalists want to be recognized as experts

When looking into why an online presence is important, we do see a big change. It’s no longer mostly for the benefit of the publication, but also very much about the journalist themselves. Rather than focusing on driving traffic to articles by their publishers, journalists nowadays want to get recognized as experts by their readers but also by editors for additional assignments. Journalists are really starting to build their personal brand. When looking at who the audience follows - this is no longer primarily the publication, but actually the individual journalist. To be more specific, 66% of our participants indicated that people tend to first follow their content as journalists or as a person. That means that most of the readers follow their social media accounts, their personal blogs or email newsletters. That also presents a great opportunity for journalists-the freedom to write their own extensive opinion pieces which are not published elsewhere. In other words, this enables them to develop their own image further and position themselves as thought leaders.

It’s all about research and knowledge sharing

So what do journalists use their social media accounts for given that online presence is so vital for their careers? What we found is that the majority of people use their social media accounts to find interesting stories and as a way to connect with other journalists in the field. Another very common reason as to why journalists use social media platforms turns out to be promotion of their work. Therefore, social media becomes a powerful channel for them to distribute their own pieces without being dependent on the publication to do so. This builds the personal brand further and creates a highly engaged following.

Newsletters allow journalists to get even more personal

When it comes to engaged followers, publications have long adopted the newsletter as a tool that allows to reach the most loyal audience consistently. Nevertheless, we wanted to find out ourselves whether email digests are indeed a used form of communication by journalists. The responses we got to the question “How relevant do you think email digests are for journalists nowadays?” were very interesting. In total, 89.7% of the journalists surveyed, found email newsletters to be relevant to some extent and only the remaining 10.3% thought they are not that significant. Therefore, the email newsletter is indeed a trend in publishing that is deemed quite important and useful from many journalists.

It also turned out that 69% of the publications they work for regularly send out email digests in one format or another. Those vary from monthly digests to bi-weekly, daily and others. They are typically a mix of automatically sent out newsletters like most read / most shared articles or articles per category. What was more interesting is that 47% of their fellow colleagues regularly send out personal newsletters!

There is a big opportunity for journalists in the latter who can start a personal newsletter to share their expertise by email with their most loyal followers to further build their personal brand.

Conclusion

So what do all of those numbers and facts mean? Well, for starters journalism has indeed changed its ways throughout the years. Being online and being active is of utmost importance for writers, bloggers and journalists who want to be seen more, network, promote their own work and establish themselves as opinion leaders.

When it came to online presence, what became evident is that nowadays journalists tend to be followed firstly for their content as an individual. That supports the idea that it is even more crucial for them to build their own network and learn how to connect with others while spreading the word about their projects. Mostly, since building their own brand as individual journalists is so important.

In addition, a large portion of our participants indicated that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are predominantly used for those purposes. Apparently, being on social media enables them to find interesting information and connect with other professionals.

Furthermore, most of the journalists who took part in our survey indicated that newsletters are another form of being actively online and they seem to be essential for their profession.

This correlates with the fact that the majority of publications they work for send out email digests on a regular basis.

Given that publications have already adopted various kinds of newsletters to communicate with their audience, the individual journalist is next in line since they tend to be followed first as professionals.

Thus, by taking this into account email becomes an attractive alternative to social media in the journey to successful self-branding and reaching audiences in a more personal manner. That being said, our results which show that journalists tend to use newsletters as a form of communication more and more, makes complete sense.

At Revue we consider that the personal newsletter, sent directly by the journalist to their followers will be a powerful addition as it helps the journalist to connect with their audience and showcase their expertise while strengthening their online presence even more.

Strengthen your online presence with a personal newsletter

Send yours now

Methodoloy

  • The data for this report was collected through a survey of 13 open and closed questions, implemented in Typeform.
  • The survey was distributed to journalists by email and posting in journalism communities on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • In total, we received 130 answers in the period between November 15th, 2016 and February 15, 2017.
  • One of the questions asked journalists to indicate their affiliation. All responses from self-reported non-journalists were excluded. The remaining self-reported affiliations are as displayed in the graph.