The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. X No. 6 (December 2013)

Social media utilization among news organizations

By Chris Winker

The impact of social media has forced news organizations to better concentrate their efforts and strategies on nontraditional sites. Especially during emergencies, Facebook and Twitter have become primary outlets. But considering that consumers use these sites in various ways, are news organizations doing the same?

In this issue, Jennifer Brannock Cox shows the importance of social media sites in newsgathering and introduces a study regarding news organizations and their respective utilization of Facebook and Twitter. In the end, she finds that news organizations the two sites quite differently, perhaps painting a different perception of the news for those consumers who prefer one platform to the other.

Respond to Ms. Cox's article at The Convergence Newsletter blog and at the newsletter's Facebook or Google+ pages. View the full archive of newsletters at


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

Feb. 28-March 1: AEJMC Midwinter Conference, Norman, Okla.

March 20-22: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, Gainesville, Fla.

April 4-5: Journalism Interactive, College Park, Md.

April 24-26: The International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design, Istanbul

Sept. 23-24: International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communications, Singapore


Featured Article

Mixing News Messages & Methods on Social Media
By Jennifer Brannock Cox
Salisbury University

Facebook and Twitter can be used in a variety of ways – connecting with friends, making new acquaintances, searching for information, or even just crushing one's own productivity. However, more users are turning to the sites for news, treating them as one-stop shops for content rather than drifting aimlessly among news organization websites [1] .

Recognizing this, news organizations have also turned their attention to social media, in many cases requiring reporters to incorporate regular postings into their newsgathering and production routines [2] . In doing so, journalists have additional opportunities to expand their gatekeeping roles, deciding what to post, when, and on which social media site.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center [3] found Facebook users spent an average of 423 minutes on the site in a month, yet they spent only an average of about 12 minutes per month on a top-25 news site. If journalists want to reach their audience, they are going to have to find it on social media.

Social media users tend to favor some sites over others, spending more time on their preferred network. [4] Even if a person is on both sites, the ways in which he or she uses those sites tends to vary. [5]

Is the same true for news organizations? If news content indeed varies across social media platforms, are users getting a complete news picture on their preferred network?

People use Twitter and Facebook differently because they are distinct. Twitter limits its users to 140-character text blurbs, forcing posters to be purposeful and deliberate with their messages. Twitter also tends to be more immediate and searchable, while weakly connecting people to one another.

By contrast, Facebook is more visually stimulating with many posts containing photos, videos, and links in addition to text. Facebook is also more intimate, with most users having stronger social ties to their "friends."

Additionally, users tend to share news stories more frequently on Facebook than Twitter. Facebook is also more effective for driving traffic to news organization websites. [6]

Given their divergent characteristics, it stands to reason news organizations would use their sites differently to distribute news messages. Using a content analysis to record story topic, author type, geographic focus, timeliness, and story type, I examined posts on Facebook and Twitter over the course of a seven-day constructed week from six news organizations: Yahoo! News, Huffington Post, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Each organization posted on Twitter significantly more frequently than on Facebook, with the exception of CNN. Overall, the organizations made 3,490 posts on Twitter, compared with 768 on Facebook during the sample period. Huffington Post accounted for a majority of the content, posting 2,008 times on Twitter and 386 times on Facebook.

Given the size of the collection, a sample of the data was coded. Up to 20 posts per platform, per day, were coded for each organization, for a total of 1,232 items.

There were some small differences between Facebook and Twitter regarding author type with more staff-authored posts on Facebook (67.19 percent) compared with Twitter (63.19), and more wire-service-authored posted on Twitter (11.84 percent) compared with Facebook (4.27).

Geographically, the percentage of posts focused on domestic issues (national, state, and local) was identical across the two platforms – 58.18 percent. However, Twitter contained a greater percentage of posts focused on international issues (27.66) than Facebook (24.05), while Facebook contained a greater percentage of posts with no geographic focus (17.82) than Twitter (14.21).

Some of the most telling differences occurred within the topics and types of articles posted on each social media platform. Twitter featured a greater percentage of political articles (25.97 percent) compared with Facebook (17.15), while news organizations appeared to favor Facebook for lifestyle stories (18.71 percent) over Twitter (12.27). Additionally, niche topics such as health, religion, and lifestyle were found in higher percentages on Facebook compared with Twitter.

Facebook also seemed to be preferred for "evergreen" stories that could run at any time (28.22 percent), compared with Twitter (20.77). But organizations used Twitter more frequently to post spot news (35.51) than Facebook (26.44). News organizations also used Twitter more for hard news, including those more serious in nature and containing a sense of immediacy (43.65), than Facebook (33.85). Soft news stories, including less serious items that are not critical in guiding readers' abilities to govern themselves, were more frequently posted on Facebook (36.08) compared with Twitter (30.04).

Overall, this study helped paint a picture of two social media sites being used by news organizations in very different ways, which could impact perceptions of news events by those who prefer either platform. Facebook users appear more likely to be exposed to soft, lifestyle and helpfulness stories – with fewer time pegs – while Twitter users are more likely to encounter immediate hard news on items such as politics and disasters.

Could these differing focuses lead to reader misconceptions about the state of the world or importance of issues? Facebook users might be more prone to self-centered thinking as a result of exposure to soft, helpful stories, while Twitter users may be more politically polarized, or desensitized, to hard news of disasters.

Future studies on reader effects can help explore these issues in greater depth, and qualitative analysis of these differences may help reveal why news organizations use Facebook and Twitter differently and what journalists hope to gain from varying their social media offerings.

[1] Jeff Sonderman, "One-Third of Adults Under 30 Get News on Social Networks Now,", September 27, 2012, (5 November 2013). (Return)

[2] Mark Briggs, Journalism Next, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2013). (Return)

[3] Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel, and Leah Christian, "What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News," The Pew Research Center, 2012, (5 November 2013). (Return)

[4] David John Hughes, Moss Rowe, Mark Batey, and Andrew Lee, "A Tale of Two Sites: Twitter Vs. Facebook and the Personality Predictors of Social Media Usage," Computers in Human Behavior, Journal 28, no. 2,: 561-569.(Return)

[5] Mitchell, Rosenstiel, and Christian, "What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News." (Return)

[6] Mitchell, Rosenstiel, and Christian, "What Facebook and Twitter Mean for News." (Return)


Conferences, Training, and Calls for Papers (Return to top)

AEJMC Midwinter Conference
University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla.
Feb. 28-March 1
Deadline to submit papers: Dec. 1


AEJMC Southeast Colloquium
University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
March 20-22
Deadline to submit papers: Dec. 9


Journalism Interactive
University of Maryland, College Park, Md.
April 4-5


The International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design
April 24-26
Deadline to submit papers: Feb. 28


3rd Annual International Conference on Journalism and Mass Communication
Sept. 22-23
Deadline to submit papers: March 21


Job Listings

Elon University: Multimedia Production
To apply, email a letter of application, CV, a link to online work samples, and the names and contact information for four references to Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Applications must be received by Dec. 18 to be assured of consideration.


Iowa State University: Greenlee School of Journalism, assistant professor
For more information, and how to apply visit the application website. All applicants must apply online at To ensure consideration, applicants must submit by Dec. 31.


Publisher and Editorial Staff

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Executive Editor: Doug Fisher

Editor: Chris Winkler

Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at, where you can comment on recent articles and keep up with the latest in convergence news.

There is also an RSS feed option for those who want alternative access.

View past and current issues of The Convergence Newsletter at


Licensing and Redistribution

The Convergence Newsletter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

This newsletter may be redistributed in any form — print or electronic — without edits or deletion of any content.

Creative Commons License


Submission Guidelines

The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence in all forms including technological, organizational, operational, psychological, and sociological. We welcome articles of all sorts and encourage those addressing the subject in new ways and with new perspectives. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academic and professional; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations.

Feature articles should be 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles and reviews should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be no more than 200 words. Please send all articles to The Convergence Newsletter editor at along with your name, affiliation and contact information.The newsletter is published monthly except January and July. Please submit all articles by the 15th of the month to be considered for the next month's issue.

If you would like to post a position announcement, include a brief description of the position and a link to the complete information. Please send all announcements or questions to the editor at the above email.



To subscribe or edit your information, please send a message to or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.