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Journalists favour Twitter for networking

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Social media has taken the world by storm, connecting people, ideas and activities, and social networking mediums like email and instant messaging are the norm.

A group of people that has embraced social media is journalists. In particular, Twitter is the most widely used for networking, according to new research from Spain. The results were presented at the recent International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) 2011 Conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in Spain have found that journalists who use mainstream social media prefer Twitter. They use this networking tool primarily to disseminate information. The group of professors that carried out the 'Join the Conversation: how Spanish journalists are using Twitter' research study were from the LABàPART group (The Medium is the Lab) at UC3M and assessed the responses of 50 journalists with active Twitter profiles to determine how they are using this media at work, how they feel about it and what their expectations are.

LABàPART is a permanent communication and social media laboratory designed to evaluate the status of online participation by the local news media, as well as the latest web-based collaborative strategies to emerge. The researchers are also cooperating on the 'Journalism and Social Analysis: Evolution, Effects and Tendencies' (PASEET) project.

'The first step was to analyse the participative scene, relating it to journalism,' says Pilar Carrera from the Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication at UC3M, who also heads LABàPART.

The team's data show that the journalists, who have been active in their field for an average of 15 years, diligently use Twitter to publish and distribute information (95%), identify tendencies (86%), seek information (82%), 'viralise' information about their particular media (86%) or build audience loyalty (78%). It should be noted though that only a quarter of those polled said they use Twitter to conduct investigative reporting.

On the heels of Twitter came Facebook (41%), blogs (26%) and YouTube (8%). In terms of viralising information of their own news media, Twitter surpassed Facebook (82% vs 66%); in terms of viralising information from other media sources, Twitter again topped Facebook (67% vs 45%).

The researchers point out that journalists use social media in a way that does not essentially involve taking advantage of the specificity and logic of those networks to develop new content.

'For the most part, the journalists use these networks as 'viralisation' mechanisms, as systems to disseminate content that has mostly been generated outside of the logic of the social media, according to the traditional forms of journalistic production,' remarks Professor Carrera.

The results also shed light on whether or not the media has guidelines or accepted norms regarding the use of social networks. The figures show that 13% of those polled said their medium has such guidelines, while 54% recognise that no guidelines exist. The other 33% confirmed that their medium is currently working on such guidelines