Breaking down traditional media, the 2009 State of the First Amendment National Survey found that TV is the top choice for news, with 49% saying it was their first source for major news stories, followed by radio at 13%, and newspapers at 10%. When looking for follow-up reports to major news stories, 48% of consumers turn to TV, 29% turn to the Internet, and 9% read a newspaper.
"We're finding that social media and Twitter and other new forms of media are intriguing to people," said Gene Policinski, VP and executive director of First Amendment Center, which introduced the findings last week. "People are, common sense would say, a little more skeptical about new media because they don't have a lot of experience with it yet. There has been time for traditional media to gather an audience."
In February, the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism released a study that found "a significant decline in the reporting power of the mainstream media," as more niche and specialty publications fill the gap. But these newer forms of media—whether they are niche publications or social media—need time to build up credibility.
"It's a matter of trust, credibility, and access," said Vickee Adams, SVP and US director for media communications at Hill & Knowlton. "The major news outlets, we trust them, we're used to them, we're familiar with them, and they have many platforms for us to consume."
The survey also found that Twitter is not viewed as a reliable news source, with 17% of consumers reporting the microblogging site is "very reliable" and "somewhat reliable," compared to 34% who reported "not reliable at all" and "not too reliable." Forty-nine percent said they did not know enough about Twitter to respond.
Jean Ziliani, VP and senior media specialist at Ketchum, said that clients still value placements on traditional media outlets like the Today show. "You're talking about a Today show hit, with 4 or 5 million viewers, versus a Twitter hit," she said. "You're talking a couple hundred, versus millions."
"Even social media phenomenon, like the wedding where they danced down the aisle, it wasn't popularized and put into the mainstream until traditional media reported on it," said Aaron Kwittken, CEO and managing partner of Kwittken & Co. "Is just reinforces the fact that social media is one component of the entire mix."