In the past, there was only one layer of intermediary between companies and stakeholders: the press. Today there's another that sits between content creators and their audiences – algorithms.

According to comScore, the majority of all U.S. news consumption now takes place on smartphones. However, much of it is filtered through two players – Google and Facebook. As communicators, it's critical that we understand how this prism refracts the white light of news into a million fragmented colors.

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer tells us more. It showed that search engines are now more trusted than the press.

However, social media maybe the true disruptor. It is having a dramatic, perhaps outsized impact on how digital news is produced, distributed, consumed and ultimately monetized. And 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, the Edelman Media Network (a team of earned media specialists) teamed with NewsWhip and Muck Rack to study U.S. social news consumption.

Working with NewsWhip, Edelman 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 shaped a survey of more than 250 journalists in collaboration with Muck Rack.

The 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 three 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 new social sharing behaviors. This initial analysis revealed that:

  • 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 saw the most shares on LinkedIn
  • Some four percent of the most shared articles originated from UK publishers.

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 are heard.

Edelman thought leadership headshot Steve Rubel

Steve Rubel is Chief Content Strategist at Edelman