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How publishers can adapt to the digital acceleration: Key findings from global ICFJ survey

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There has been a marked increase in the adoption of digital technology by the media industry over the past two years, notes a new survey from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). As journalists rely on technological tools frequently—using social media, data, podcasting and others for their reporting—they are looking for far more intensive training than what they get now.

The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms” updates and expands on a similar 2017 survey, which found that journalists were struggling to keep pace with the digital revolution. It includes responses of 4,100 newsroom managers and journalists from across 149 countries, about newsroom staff and structures, integration of new technologies and more. 

More than 90% of journalists want digital skills training.

The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms

According to the survey report, twice as many journalists (25%) are using social media verification tools in 2019 than in 2017. 61% use data skills weekly, compared to 36% two years back.

However, training and hiring have not kept up with growing digital demands across all categories. This includes social media, data journalism, and general technology skills such as audiovisual training. 

“Increasingly fundamental to the day-to-day work of journalists”

77% of journalists said they are using social media more frequently to post and share their stories and engage audiences (67%). They also use social networks regularly to research the competition (73%) and find user-generated content (68%).

78% of managers said that their newsrooms use social media as an additional platform to distribute content. Facebook and Twitter are used by 90% and 73% respectively. They are followed by YouTube (60%) and Instagram (54%)—both platforms’ usage has grown notably since 2017 (from 48% and 33% respectively).

Social media sites have become increasingly fundamental to the day-to-day work of journalists, used for everything from generating new content to interacting with audiences to scoping out the competition.

The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms

“Biggest change in the way journalists practice their profession”

Data-driven journalism has also become much more popular compared to 2017. “The increasing reliance on data marks the biggest change in the way journalists practice their profession today,” states the report. 

61% of journalists analyze and use data to create stories at least weekly, compared to 36% in 2017. 35% are producing data visualizations and infographics compared to 27% in 2017. Around 25% administer surveys at least weekly. 

The usage of digital fact-checking tools have increased in response to the growing menace of misinformation and disinformation. 39% of journalists use digital tools to fact-check and verify information daily, and 56% do so at least weekly. These include fact-checking websites, tools for detecting plagiarism, Google Fact Check and Facebook Fact Checker, reverse image search and social media verification platforms.

Majority of the respondents (74% of managers and 72% of journalists) agree that digital tools have a positive impact on their work. About 75% also believe that these tools improve audience engagement. 

“Meeting journalists’ needs and calls for training”

The survey notes that while there has been a substantial increase in training it is not enough. Training for social media has grown the most (nearly doubling for digital-only organizations). More publishers are also offering training for web coding/ design and podcast production compared to 2017. However, overall the training offered by media outlets has not kept pace with the requirements of journalists.

Training and hiring, have not kept up with growing digital demands. Across all categories — including social media, data journalism and general technology skills such as audiovisual training — newsrooms aren’t meeting journalists’ needs and calls for training.

Taylor Mulcahey, IJNet Editor at the International Center for Journalists

Journalists place a greater value on highly specialized digital skills than their employers, according to the report. 40% of journalists want training in cybersecurity, but it is offered by 11% of newsrooms.

Nearly half of the journalists surveyed wanted training on fact-checking and analytics which is offered by only 20% and 11% of the newsrooms. 42% of journalists want training in AI, however, only 5% of newsrooms provide it.

Further, there is a disconnect between the kind of training journalists want and what newsrooms provide. 40% said they prefer hands-on, intensive workshops and lab sessions. Only 28% of the newsrooms offer such training. What they generally offer are half-day or shorter classes (one-thirds) and peer-to-peer training (27%). Both formats do not rank highly among journalists, the report mentions.

“You can see where the gaps are”

Sharon Moshavi, SVP of New Initiatives at ICFJ, told that the report helps publishers identify what’s missing in their organizations’ digital technology adoption, and think strategically for the future. “You can see where the gaps are still in digital usage and where revenue sources are coming from, which tools have grown and which have not.

“How do we think about the future? Let’s understand, for example, ‘We’re not hiring tech specialists, should we be doing this? Is this something we should change?'”

She added, “Journalists covering local news recognize more than anybody they are there to serve reader needs. They try more different tools and techniques in order to engage with their audience – that’s a lesson for nationals and regionals.

“I hope all newsrooms recognize that whatever they do in tech is in the service of their audience, rather than chasing the next shiny thing.”

The report contains more extensive data and insights that can help publishers prepare for an increasingly digital future. 

The full report can be downloaded from ICFJ:
The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms