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Commercial news organisations rely on social media to reach audiences

Changes in interactions


Commercial news organisations across Europe continue to make major investments in social media, and regard social media as crucial to their digital strategy - driving traffic, offsite reach and digital subscribers, a new study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals.

Facebook accounts for the largest share of social media traffic and delivers the highest levels of audience engagement. The platform remains the most important part of the social media strategy of commercial news organisations, despite an average 9% drop in the overall number of interactions since changes to Facebook's algorithms in January 2018. Some organisations reported drops of up to 32.5%, while others saw an increase in interactions.

The report, a study of 12 newspapers and commercial broadcasters across Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK, identified three main strategies shaping the different ways news organisations use social media:

  1. driving on-site traffic through referrals
  2. driving off-site reach through native formats, such as Facebook Instant Articles or auto-play videos
  3. driving digital subscription sales (often through advertising content on Facebook)

Key findings:

  • Facebook accounts for the largest share of social media traffic, organisations report.
  • The number of interactions relative to the number of followers is on average more than ten times higher on Facebook than on Twitter.
  • Subscription-based organisations also sponsor a significant number of Facebook posts as part of their strategy to drive sales.
  • Twitter is valued as a way of generating off-site reach and visibility through breaking news – especially among politicians and journalists.
  • Twitter’s contribution to traffic, audience engagement and digital revenues is seen as limited.
  • Instagram (owned by Facebook) is seen as a potentially valuable way of reaching younger audiences.
  • Newspapers and broadcasters have not found effective ways to monetise content directly through any social media platform they use. Instead they focus on indirect monetisation through converting on-site traffic through advertising and by selling subscriptions.

Read the full report: 'Private Sector News, Social Media Distribution, and Algorithm Change'