Guess what…Social media is NOT replacing traditional journalism [Infographic]

Far too often I see stories, comments, and infographics (see below) about how social media is taking over journalism. This simply isn’t the case. Social media can’t replace journalism – they are just too different. Those who view social media as a threat to journalism are missing the great opportunities it presents.

Social media can help with almost every function in the business of news. I’ve seen it used to: source stories, line up interviews, provide personal photos, drive readership, interact with on-air personalities, do quick viewer polls, connect with customers, and the list goes on.

When you really think about it, journalism ISN’T words on newsprint, voices on airwaves, or pictures on the nightly news. That’s just a description of the traditional distribution model. Journalism is really about telling stories. Accurate, fair, balanced, and interesting stories. It doesn’t matter that I read my news on my smartphone, and my neighbour still buys broadsheet newspapers everyday. The important thing is that we both are still consuming news stories produced by trained professionals.

“Boohoo” stories from the newspaper industry really bug me because they don’t tell the whole story about declining circulations. Who cares if some paper in Seattle is no longer offering a print edition of their paper after more than 140 years of publication? People weren’t buying it in the first place because it was a bunch of ink printed on dead trees. They were buying it for the stories. And this “historic” paper in Seattle is still alive and well online. As long as traditional news outlets are willing to adapt how they deliver stories to the public, and their revenue streams, they will be set up for success. I don’t see this as a decline in “traditional journalism” whatsoever.

Perhaps the social media vs. traditional journalism sentiment comes from the way we talk about how social media relates to journalism. Nobody likes to have the relevance of their job called into question, so I can see how the term “citizen journalism” may have upset a few people in the industry. Perhaps we shouldn’t be calling it “citizen journalism”; instead, call it “citizen reporting” – a bit more accurate.

But citizen reporting has it’s place, and journalists really can’t compete with it: in fact, they shouldn’t even try. Let Twitter  tell me that Dick Clark has passed away – I read the rest of the story on a traditional news website. Facebook can tell me the “who, what, when, where”, details of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I look to traditional media to give me a bit more insight on the “why and how” because their journalists have the time, training, and access to newsmakers to be able to write a more fulsome story.

There is no doubt that journalists and news organizations need to continue to adapt, like every other industry. The ones who can’t (or won’t) will be forgotten, but the ones that embrace social media are using it to give them an edge in the business of news gathering and distribution. And to be quite honest, I am certain that I read more newspaper stories in 2012 than ever before because the internet gives me greater access.

The infographic below was released this week by containing stats on “How social media is replacing journalism.” Take a look, and let me know what you think.

24 Responses to “Guess what…Social media is NOT replacing traditional journalism [Infographic]”

  1. I’ve been reading a lot of other blogs where the authors are sharing the same view point on social media NOT replacing journalism and I tend to agree. There are some aspects of journalism that will remain because they cannot be replaced with a status update or tweet.


  2. I agree journalism is how you tell the in depth story behind the news . It can be in both paper and online forums I prefer paper but also check online for breaking news. Interesting ad from all news 680 in TO “‘If your hearing it itis news if your reading it, it’s history'” I still buy 3 newspapers a day, however to find the latest news, scores etc from late game I go to the star online


  3. This article reassuring to me, to say the least. I just acquired a Social Media Certificate in December and am on track to begin Journalism at Algonquin in September.

    The thing that really bugs me about people saying “Social Media is replacing Journalism” is that once they say that one tid bit, they have no follow up. “Well, uhh I learn everything from Twitter and Facebook notifications on my phone”.

    But the thing is, once they learn about a story happening or piece of news, they have no follow up. “Dick Clark died”. Alright, how? When? Was he sick? Was it an accident? Can you tell me more about the story, or just the fact that he passed and nothing else?

    If only there was some sort of publication or source of information that gave you a more in depth look into stories and situations, that were longer than 140 characters!

    Social Media is far from replacing Journalism. Sure, it boosts the power and information of stories in Journalism, and gives Journalists more options to interact and spread the word, but it is far from being replaced.

    Like always, amazing read, David.


  4. Wow…. this “analysis” is pretty breathtaking. The only problem with it is that ads in print editions generated much higher revenue than online advertising, David. That’s the basic point here that you and millions of other people just don’t seem to get. That ad print revenue is the revenue stream that funds newsrooms and the journalists in them. Why does this matter? Because if you don’t have the money to pay journalists do practice journalism – which is about more than simple reporting of “facts” – there’s no check and balance on governments, and no way to find out what’s actually happening in society. It’s about more than simple “factoids” posted on a twitter feed or a FB update. Similarly, “citizen journalists” aren’t practising journalism. Journalism is a profession. What’s frightening is how widely misunderstood its practice is today. Nice chart though.


    • Hi Molly (anonymous),

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. Sorry to hear that you didn’t like it. No worries though, “can’t please them all,” right?

      Your comment “ads in print editions generated much higher revenue than online advertising”, is not quite the complete picture…here’s why. In 2011, companies in the US spent roughly $32 billion on online advertising, and $36 billion on print ads (pretty close, right?). BUT it is estimated that in 2012 alone, online ad spending will increase to almost $40 billion, while print advertising will shrink to $33 billion. This trend is predicted to continue over the next 4 years until online advertising spending almost doubles that spent on print. More on those numbers here –

      So within a few short months the statement “online editions generate higher revenue than print advertising” will be true. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to ask any Marketing or Communications professional this question: “If you had $10,000 more advertising dollars to spend this year, where would you spend it?” I’ll bet you a coffee that none of them will say “print media!” and if they do, they should lose their job. There are a whole host of reasons why they will chose online over print, including measurable ROI, the ability to target key demographics with incredible focus, and the cost to produce and buy the ads themselves.

      I see that you are a freelance journalist (Molly Amoli K. Shinhat). It’s concerning that people within the industry are still looking at old techniques (print ads) to generate revenue, rather than looking for new, and clearly booming, options (online ads).

      This other comment of yours had me scratching my head….

      “…if you don’t have the money to pay journalists do practice journalism – which is about more than simple reporting of “facts” – there’s no check and balance on governments, and no way to find out what’s actually happening in society.”
      Do you really think that without print journalism there would be “no check and balance on governments, and no way to find out what’s actually happening in society”…seriously? No checks and balances? No way to find out what’s actually happening in society? Perhaps you can clarify this point.

      Again, thanks for the comment. I love the conversations that social media facilitate.


      • 1. The point I made – which you appear to have misunderstood – is that that traditional revenue stream hasn’t been replaced or wasn’t at the time that the technological shift began – and that’s part of the reason why the layoffs in newsrooms have been and continue to be huge…. That said, I’m not suggesting – and didn’t say – that companies should buy more print ads. But those layoffs mean fewer journalists – that’s indisputable. And as you yourself pointed out, print editions are tanking. Because of the recession(s), media companies have used the gap to put the money elsewhere-not into newsrooms. 2. As for your claim that you think someone else is looking out for the public interest other than journalists and their practice does, I disagree completely. You said it yourself, social media is not journalism.


  5. My apologies, David. You’d also asked me to clarify the point that had you scratching your head – what I meant about journalism providing a check and balance. I think you assumed I meant only print journalism, and what I meant was journalism more broadly. (But by the way, print journalism and its offshoot – online journalism – is used as a source by broadcast media. Print journalism newsrooms were used in this way for decades. One media, literally would follow the story of their sister broadcast newsroom and vice versa. In fact it still happens today.) Finally, I really regret posting here because you’ve been a bit nasty. Perhaps freedom of expression isn’t something you yourself support or believe in? But I mustn’t assume….. Finally, I would like to ask you, other than journalists, who you think has time or would know how to look into a scandal, let’s say, and have the time and resources to unearth some kind of truth? It’s a bit of shock to me that anyone thinks that journalism is not essential to a democratic process. It’s at the very intersection of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Historically many major scandals – including robocalls, etc. – were unearthed by journalists. I guess we disagree on this though David, and that’s absolutely fair enough. All the best.


    • Hi Molly (anonymous),

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way. I thought my blog post was actually quite supportive of the journalism industry. All the best in your efforts as a freelance journalist and thanks again for taking the time to read and comment on this post.


    • Nasty? Really, Molly? No. Having a difference of opinion doesn’t make someone nasty. David’s post was well thought out and insightful, and extremely respectful of your profession.

      Seriously, this overly defensive attitude that some (not all) in the journalism field have about the supposed threat of citizen reporting is so exaggerated.

      If you want to continue to uphold the high standard of journalistic integrity that those in your profession value so much, perhaps having a bit more of an open mind about the fundamental shift that is occurring in the world of media and communication is a good idea. Those journalists that are embracing the change are the ones who are going to continue to be the most successful.

      This “us and them” business has to stop. And calling names? Not cool.


  6. I’m absolutely blown away by comments above from “Anonymous”: “if you don’t have the money to pay journalists do practice journalism – which is about more than simple reporting of ‘facts’ – there’s no check and balance on governments, and no way to find out what’s actually happening in society,” and “…other than journalists, who you think has time or would know how to look into a scandal, let’s say, and have the time and resources to unearth some kind of truth?” Not only do these comments place journalists on an ethical pedestal I think most journalists would be uncomfortable with, but they are also incredibly reductive. If the only checks and balances placed on our governments came from journalists alone, then we surely wouldn’t be living in a democratic society!


  7. Interesting that I would read this post the same day that Jeff Jarvis published this post:

    The irony of much of this discussion is that many media companies are still making money — profits, that is — from print newspapers.

    As to who is or isn’t practicing journalism? I was a freelance journalist for a number of years. I had no training; I held no certification; there was no professional body overseeing my activities. There is no body in Canada governing journalism as there is for medicine, law, or other professions. Journalism isn’t a job title or a consequence of who pays you. Journalism is a process. I believe that many people creating social media content could benefit from some of the lessons that journalists learn, either in school or in the field.

    And, frankly,I think that journalists who wish to succeed in the future should learn some lessons from social media.


  8. If, as you say, “. . . within a few short months the statement ‘online editions generate higher revenue than print advertising’ will be true . . .” I wonder if this breaking news will come over social media or via conventional print and broadcast? Please email me the moment it happens so that we can report it to our readers at BTW, this is an excellent post and “anonymous” should be complimented for contributing critical thinking to the dialogue rather than chastised as in your RT of the tweet that alerted me to this debate, wherein he/she was accused of having “no balls” for remaining nameless. That is an ad hominem attack and it should be realized that this person may have a position to protect.


  9. Sorry but how can you write a post like this without citing any of the analysis done by the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism?


  10. Hi O. El-ahrairah,
    Thanks for your comment and sharing the link to the PEW Research Centre’s statistics on revenue, circulation, and demographics of the newspaper industry. Although the purpose of the post was not intended to focus those three elements, the information you shared is still quite useful. Thanks again.



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