Research Insight

Storytelling in the Age of Social News Consumption



Social media is having a dramatic, perhaps outsized impact on how digital news is produced, distributed, consumed and ultimately monetized. As mobile and social technologies reach critical mass, it is fueling a footrace to create highly shareable, yet informative news stories that generate traffic. More critically this is changing how journalists approach their craft.

To address this dynamic further, Katie Scrivano and the Edelman Media Network (a team of earned media specialists) teamed with two start-ups, NewsWhip and Muck Rack to study U.S. social news consumption.

Working with NewsWhip, we identified the 50 overall most-shared, English-language articles, and in six key topics – general news, food and beverage, energy, health, technology and finance. Edelman Berland then analyzed each story to identify significant commonalities. This helped shaped a survey of more than 250 working journalists that Edelman conducted in collaboration with Muck Rack.

This research revealed that:

  • More than 75 percent of journalists say they feel more pressure now to think about their story’s potential to get shared on social platforms.
  • To make their stories more shareable, journalists are infusing their stories with five key ingredients: video/images, brevity, localization, more use of human voice and a proximity to trending topics.
  • Nearly 3/4 of journalists are now creating original video content to accompany their stories. However, very few journalists (13 percent) are relying on sourcing consumer-generated video and only 3 percent are using corporate video.
  • Journalists see five key trends impacting their profession this year: more mobile friendly content, faster turnaround times, more original video, smaller newsroom staff and social media growing in influence.

Additionally, the NewsWhip data revealed a wealth of information about which networks influence the news we read, and which publishers and writers are having success in adapting to a world where social sharing behaviors influence what stories stick to screens.

Later this quarter Edelman will publish a more detailed analysis of this data to map the “genome” of a shareable news story broadly and across the aforementioned sectors. However, this top line analysis revealed that:

  • Facebook dominates all other social platform interactions.
  • Non-legacy media publishers make up the majority of the most-engaged sites on Facebook (top sources: The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Mashable, PlayBuzz).
  • The Huffington Post featured more video than any other news site; emerged as top shared news outlet on Facebook overall.
  • BBC, The New York Times and Mashable posted the most amount of shares on Twitter.
  • Forbes, The New York Times and Business Insider posted the most amount of shares on LinkedIn.
  • Some 4 percent of the most shared articles originated from UK publishers.

Click below to view the infographic
Media Trends Infographic 2014 XII -post clip II










Social media, on one level, has democratized news distribution: publishers, companies and journalists can now directly engage their audiences. However, these algorithms and sharing behaviors have created a new complex web of intermediaries between the media and their audiences. This is impacting how news is produced, and perhaps even which stories are selected for production and prominent distribution.

In 2015 and beyond, communicators will need to see the landscape as a whole, develop systematic thinking and a more connected way of linking up paid, earned and owned strategies to ensure they get heard. This means discovering the shareable angles on stories (the “social lede”), deepening relationships with journalists and helping them create original video content.

This is a topic I personally will be focused on studying and writing about throughout the year. It warrants quite a bit of research and thought about how communicators can now ensure their messages get heard in a world of unlimited content, yet limited time and attention. Our strategies must account for the outsized role that just a few players like Facebook have on what we see.

For more on the research see the presentation linked here.

Steve Rubel is Edelman’s chief content strategist.

  • Boca Ratso

    OK Pal. Here’s your camera and selfie-stick so you can shoot your own stand-ups..
    Have fun!

  • Um … although I appreciate the effort and overall insight into the ‘world of content’, how can this be useful strategically without considering who the audience is on the receiving end?

    • Ira Haberman

      Agreed. Understanding your audience, is likely the most important thing in an age of content overload. How do you cut through? By creating content that specifically resonates with your audience.

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