Social Media used by nearly all Middle East journalists – but only 60% use it for work
Rushika Bhatia
Industry Watch

Social Media used by nearly all Middle East journalists – but only 60% use it for work

The traditional media in the Middle East has embraced the use of social media with 95% of the region’s journalists now using Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks, a major survey published today reveals.

However, personal use – such as keeping in touch with family and friends – is the most popular reason for journalists’ use of social media, with just 60% using it as part of their daily working lives and only 35% valuing it as a source of news.

The MediaSource/Insight Middle East Journalist Survey 2011 canvassed the opinions of 251 journalists working for Arabic and English-language print, broadcast and online media in 13 countries across the region, covering topics ranging from press releases, press conferences, PR practice, the sources journalists use for stories, and the current state of journalism in the region.

“While social media’s importance is recognised and its influence is growing, the message is clear to the PR industry: ‘don’t ignore the traditional sources’,” said James Mullan, joint managing partner of media training consultancy, Insight. “On the record briefings, press releases and eyewitness accounts are all rated much higher by the region’s media as sources of news.”

Conducted every two years, the survey is designed to assist the PR industry by letting them know what pleases and what annoys journalists with the way they receive information from agencies and in-house corporate communications teams.

“This is the third time we have conducted the survey and certain interesting patterns are beginning to emerge,” Mr Mullan continued. “For instance, there has been a significant upswing in the rating by journalists of PR practitioners’ professionalism, there appear to be less ‘no news’ press conferences taking place, and a better overall understanding of journalists’ needs.

“Whether the economic downturn has forced the PR industry to sharpen up its act due to increased competition and pressure on budgets is open to debate, but journalists clearly believe they’re being served better by the regional PR industry.”

There is, however, still room for improvement with ‘irrelevant’ and ‘badly targeted’ press releases still clogging up journalist’s inboxes across the Middle East.

“This continues to be the ‘most irritating practice’ for both the Arabic and English media, as it was in both of our previous surveys,” said Ben Smalley, managing director of MediaSource, which publishes the Middle East & North Africa Media Guide and represents global PR tool Mediadisk in the region.

“The PR industry really needs to take this seriously as journalists are fed up having to trawl through material that is of absolutely no relevance to their publication or outlet. Given the tools that are currently available, there really is no excuse for adopting a ‘scattergun approach’ to press release distribution. One of our respondents summed it up well with the simple comment: ‘Photos sent to RADIO!’”

Facebook is the most popular social media network with 59% of Arabic and 73% of English-language respondents saying their media outlets have a presence on the site, compared with just 16% (Arabic) and 29% (English) in 2009.

Twitter is only used by 43% of the Arabic media and 50% of the English-language media, while YouTube is used by no more than a quarter of all journalists for professional purposes.

The Arabic media has a better view of its own profession with 52% believing the quality of journalism in the region to be either ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’, compared with just 30% of the English-language media who feel the same.

“Both our previous surveys generated a lot of discussion among PR professionals and journalists and we were invited by a number of agencies to present the findings to their staff,” stated Oliver Blofeld, managing partner, Insight.

“The PR industry clearly values the opportunity to receive such honest, straightforward feedback from the region’s journalists and hopefully they are using the findings to improve the service they provide to the media.”

The full MediaSource/Insight Middle East Journalist Survey 2011 has been compiled as a 71-page report containing hundreds of direct quotes from the media which can be purchased online at for US$150, or by emailing requests to