This study examined the use of online newsrooms and social media by U.S. state tourism offices. Fifty state tourism websites were analyzed to investigate the availability of online newsrooms as well as their contents and overall usability. The social media availability on the state tourism websites was also examined. The results revealed that most state tourism websites provide online newsrooms to media but many of them do not meet the needs of journalists in terms of usability, content availability, and information distribution. All of the websites integrated at least one type of social media; the most commonly used were Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.
This study used a content analysis of 50 state tourism websites visited between November 7-11, 2011.
- Forty-eight state tourism websites had online newsrooms for media. The most common items included are press releases (86%), story ideas (62.5%), media kits (52.1%), state facts/backgrounders (52.1%), e-newsletters (50%), and event calendars (50%).
- Many newsrooms do not effectively support journalists’ needs in terms of usability and information distribution.
- Only 12 newsrooms had search engines within newsrooms and only eight incorporated social plugins to encourage users’ information sharing and engagement. None provided news subscriptions for mobile devices.
- All state tourism websites had at least one type of social media. The average number of social media platforms used by state tourism offices was four platforms. The most commonly used social media sites were Facebook (50 States), Twitter (49 States), YouTube (36 States), and Flickr (29 States).
Implications for Practice
The findings of this study provide a current picture of online newsrooms and social media use by U.S. state tourism offices. Most U.S. state tourism offices understand the importance of online media relations and have online newsrooms and social media. However, the results suggest the newsrooms’ usability and information distribution should be improved. Public relations professionals should consider implementing a search feature in online newsrooms to help journalists get the information they need quickly. They also need to provide mobile-friendly online newsroom sites and news subscription feature for mobile devices. In addition, integrating social plugins into the newsroom pages can encourage the site visitors to share the news on their own social platforms. Plus, the online newsroom can be more strategically used as a centralized headquarters for an organization’s online communication.
The full article is available online by Science Direct login at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811113001185