Some 23 per cent of news articles contain a social media embed, and 10 per cent of these embeds have either been modified or removed by their author since the article's publication, showed a report released on 19 October by SAM.
Social media curation platform SAM analysed one million web pages using its Report Card tool, focusing on North American news sites such as New York Daily News, Fox News, Vox, CNN or Forbes, to find out more about the role social media plays in newsgathering today.
The Report Card is available for free and enables publishers to find out how many social media embeds are currently on their websites and whether they have broken or they have been edited since publication.
"Social and senior management or mid-level management can't just say that this is not an important part of newsgathering and that social has no impact on their newsgathering," James Neufeld, founder of SAM, told Journalism.co.uk. "Whether they're aware of it or not, it's already there, it's been happening."
The report only counted "raw embeds", posts sourced directly from social networks as opposed to using curation tools such as SAM or Storify.
Twitter is by far the most popular social network to generate embeds for news outlets, representing 59 per cent of all embeds identified by the report, followed by YouTube with 26 per cent and Instagram with 14 per cent.
"Instagram has a real shot at overcoming YouTube in the next year for total number of embeds. Offering diversity and briefness with its content, Instagram has set a standard for short, high value media," the SAM team wrote in the report.
Facebook embeds only made up 1 per cent of the total in the pages analysed, and the report noted the social network has not been proactive in encouraging news organisations to embed Facebook posts, preferring to keep its audience on the platform instead.
The study also highlighted that 5 per cent of all embeds were broken and another 5 per cent had been edited since publication.
Journalists and editors who are aware of the possibility of "embed decay" tend to resort to screenshots as an alternative, but Neufeld pointed out there are multiple ethical grey areas and potential legal issues when doing so.
"You're cutting out the terms of service of social networks and perhaps most damagingly, you're not taking the end users' privacy into consideration. When you're taking screenshots of their photos or their tweets, you're removing all control from them."
Neufeld explained that dealing with broken embeds is a complicated task, as publishers are "caught in the cross-fires" between the social networks' terms of service, the privacy rights of the person who posted the content, and their considerations for their readers' experience when accessing the stories online.
To monitor the "health" of the social media posts featured on the SAM platform, the team has to keep the interests of all three parties in mind: the terms of service of social networks, the privacy of the user who posted the content, and the interests of the publishers.
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