A full digital tool-set is now in use in newsrooms and editorial offices around the world, with far-reaching implications for the public relations industry, according to the latest Oriella Digital Journalism Study, released by the Oriella network of independent, technology-focused public relations firms.

A “digital first” policy, breaking news online as it happens, is in place at over a third of the media titles surveyed with use of mobile apps, video produced in-house, and social media as a news source all on the rise.

The study, based on a survey of almost 550 journalists from 15 countries spanning Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, provides evidence of wholesale changes in how publications gather and communicate stories. This year’s study, the sixth, found a quarter of the journalists surveyed often prepare multiple versions of the same story as it develops, while 20 percent said that “citizen journalism” now carries as much credibility in their organisation as mainstream reporting.

Digital media are also shaping publications’ revenue models. The proportion of respondents saying their outlet has a mobile app has nearly doubled over the past two years to 40 percent. In addition, use of premium apps to monetise content has increased by a third since 2012.

According to Robin Grainger, director of the Oriella PR Network, “Our study suggests 2013 is a watershed year for the world’s media. The growing interest in ‘digital first’ reporting, video, real-time news, mobile content and citizen journalism all exemplify what we’re calling the ‘New Normal for News.’

“If these trends accelerate, there are some potentially game-changing ramifications for media and communicators alike. First, touch-screen interfaces will open up new possibilities for storytelling. One example could be interactive graphics (or ‘digi-graphics’) which blend high design and big data to enable readers to navigate their own path through stories. Second, we may see a polarisation of journalistic output. At one end short, ‘tweet-like’ news updates will provide near real-time coverage of events in print and on video, optimised for small screens. At the other end, we may see much longer-form feature and investigative pieces. ‘Shorter but quicker’ journalism could also afford media brands greater prominence—and consequently greater traffic—in search rankings, news readers and ‘social news aggregator’ apps such as Flipboard and Pulse News.”

The study finds that journalists are using social media for news-gathering, but continue to place an emphasis on trusted sources and pre-existing relationships. For example, 51 percent of journalists said they source new stories from microblogs, such as Twitter and Weibo, but only when the source behind them is already known to them. When the source is unknown, their use by journalists halved.

By contrast, 59 percent of respondents said they sourced their news from “conversations with industry insiders.”

The sources most trusted by journalists were academics and other experts, who were trusted by 70 percent of journalists; technical experts in companies (trusted by 63 percent) and analysts (49 percent). Company CEOs were trusted by only 41 percent, and actually distrusted by one journalist in eight. The least trusted individuals were politicians, PR officers, heads of marketing, and community managers—all of whom were more distrusted than trusted by journalists.