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19. Dez. 2016
Media coverage of America’s independent workers leans more positively than the conversation that actual workers have on social media, a new media analysis by Cision has found. The analysis found that while the media discusses growth in the independent workforce and its benefits for employers, workers discuss the difficulty in finding work, fears about their retirement and even loneliness.
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Analysis of News and Social Media
The Vulnerability of the Independent Workforce
Delivered August 5, 2016
Copyright ©2016 Cision. All rights reserved.2
The Rockefeller Foundation would like to better understand how
the independent workforce is covered in mainstream media and
discussed in social channels to better understand media
perception around the topic and obtain key findings to inform
strategy, and drive tactical decisions.
• How is the independent workforce covered in mainstream news
• What themes emerge organically in coverage and online
• What influential voices surface in news and online discussion?
• How has discussion and coverage shifted over the past year?
• How do independent workers feel about their shift to working
• Are there particular audience profiles that surface in discussion
that warrant further research?
About this Report
Copyright ©2016 Cision. All rights reserved.3
• English-language searches were constructed to capture news
and social conversation related to the independent workforce in
• For news and blog content, the searches captured references
to the independent workforce at large.
• Searches for the social media analysis leveraged first person
qualifiers to ensure that the queries returned personal accounts
of members of the independent workforce to help analyze the
voice of this group.
• A 1% sample of Twitter discussion was used for the analysis as
comprehensive historic data was not available for collection.
• LexisNexis data was included in the analysis of overall news
and blog content, but was not included in the analysis of topic
Reporting Time Period
• July 1 2015 through June 30,2016
About this Report (continued)
Copyright ©2016 Cision. All rights reserved.4
45,000 Neutral Negative Positive
The Independent Workforce At-A-Glance
Negative Discussion Drivers Among
9% General Worry
4% Asking Questions
1% Not Earning Enough
1% Hourly Rate
<1% Additive Work
Tone of News/MSM and Blog Coverage
Audience Segmentation SOV
Parents Retirees Recent
from news/MSM and blogs
from social media channels
Copyright ©2016 Cision. All rights reserved.5
2. Niches within the independent workforce have been found
with varying perceptions, fears and affinities
• Recent graduates and small business owners were two
audiences that over-indexed on the prevalence of discussion
about not earning enough; twice as high as compared to total
• Parents expressed concerns about loneliness and isolation
twice as often as other groups of independent workers
• Retirees most often discussed their income, a need to look for
work and had frequent questions about taxes and their
1. There was a disconnect between news coverage of the
independent workforce and the voice of independent
workers on social media channels.
• Media coverage leaned positive: Article cited statistics, growth
in number of works and evidence the group succeeded
• Social media discussion more negative: Workers shared both
the pros and cons, as well as tips on taxes, insurance and
conversation about general worry which surface in one quarter
of all discussions
• News media focused on the benefits for business, while social
media focused on people looking for work.
Copyright © 2016 Cision. All rights reserved.6
Coverage in Mainstream News Media and Blogs
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Jul-15 Sep-15 Nov-15 Jan-16 Mar-16 May-16
Industry reports discussing the growth and size of the independent
workforce contributed to upticks in coverage
Independent Worker Coverage on News and Blogs Trend Over Time
Coverage about independent workers peaked in July
2015 and did not reach the same level of news/MSM
attention again until May 2016. Upticks in coverage
a) Jul ‘15: Peak discussion occurred in July, boosted by
coverage on FinancialContent, and BizJournals
discussing estimates that contractors will account for
40% of the workforce by 2020 and stories discussing
the demand for freelancers continues to increase as
employers look for ways to decrease overhead costs
and streamline operations.
b) Sep’15: Independent workforce coverage increased,
boosted by stories related to the release of MBO
Partners results from the fifth annual study on the
American independent workforce.
c) Oct’15:A report authored by Freelancers Union and
Upwork shared insights about the independent
workforce and sized the group at an estimate 54M
workers in the US.
d) May’16: LA Times coverage related to SuperShuttle
suing California to classify workers as contractors
instead of employees.
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Coverage outlined how the independent workforce differed from full
time employees and the impact this distinction had for employers
Mainstream News Media and Blog Discussion Drivers
• Coverage often included explanations and differentiation
around topics like pay, services provided and considered
factors like contracts, taxes and benefits.
• Stories about lawsuits also surface, largely between
companies and the state, maintaining that their workers
were independent contractors and not full time employees
in order to avoid providing the benefits associated with full
time employment (etc. insurance, paid time off).
• Topics like taxes showed an increase in coverage in March
and April as filing deadlines approached.
• Similarly, peaks in insurance coverage occurred in
November and December, when many providers have
open enrollment for employees.
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Coverage was largely positive in tone, with many stories citing
research that indicated the group was thriving financially
Mainstream News Media and Blog: Tone
• Positive coverage peaked in August, boosted by a
BizJournal story highlighting the benefits of hiring
freelancers as an employer.
• Another notable increase in positive coverage occurred in
February, related to New York City's consideration of legal
protection for freelancers who suffer wage theft.
• Litigation news contributed to negative stories about the
independent workforce, most notably between Uber’s
appeal of The California Labor Commission that it’s
drivers should be considered employees.
• News in November also included coverage that sharing
economy startups from Silicon Valley have written a letter
asking that freelancers, like any worker, should be offered
an affordable solution for healthcare, insurance and
Neutral Negative Positive
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Social Media Channel Analysis
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Increased engagement in forum discussion on BabyCenter and
CityData contributed to upticks in buzz in the last year
Independent Workers Social Media Discussion Trend Over Time
Upticks in social media discussion included:
a) Aug ‘15: Driven by forum discussion on BabyCenter.
The most active threads discussed undocumented
immigrants in political Jobs to tips on working at home
and advice on tax withholdings for stay at home
b) Jan ‘16: Conversation on BabyCenter as community
members asked others to weigh in on “Where Can I
cut and what is a priority?” Discussion included the
ebb and flow of income for freelance work, and trying
to mitigate fixed expenses and weigh the need for
expenses on items like life insurance. CityData
discussion focused on a thread called “Many Find Life
Cheaper Without Obamacare” as well as weighting the
benefits of being an employee vs. independent
c) Mar ‘16: CityData discussion contributed to increased
volume in March, boosted by engagement on threads
discussing, the best part time or free lance
opportunities during retirement, how to find a part time
job, contesting independent contractor status and
temp jobs positioned as “temp to hire.”
Jul-15 Sep-15 Nov-15 Jan-16 Mar-16 May-16
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Not Earning Enough
Some independent workers missed having colleagues, insurance benefits and voiced
frustration with setting and justifying rates
Social Discussion Tone & Drivers
• The discussion drivers that surfaced within social
discussion for independent workers were evenly divided in
tone, with half yielding positive social net sentiment scores
while the other half leaned negative in tone overall.
• Positive discussion was driven by individuals sharing
news about their growing freelance opportunities or
diversifying skill sets to find more opportunities. Of note,
the most widely discussed topic among independent
workers, finding work did skew positive in tone overall.
• Negative conversation included:
• confusion around filing for taxes and tax
• general worry about earning enough income to
make ends meet
• concerns about not having standard insurance
benefits (health, dental, life)
• missing the collaboration and interaction with
• difficulty setting and having to justify hourly rates
Positive Discussion Drivers
Negative Discussion Drivers
*Please note that discussion drivers were grouped as positive or negative based on the net sentiment score for the topic.
Copyright © 2016 Cision. All rights reserved.13
The importance of particular topics varied by audience, with SBOs prioritizing sharing tips and
asking questions above other groups
Several distinct voices emerged within
independent worker discussion, specifically:
parents, retirees, recent graduates and small
business owners (11%, 5%, 3% and 1% of
independent worker social discussion
• While many of the discussion drivers ranked
of similar importance across audiences,
there were a few notable differences that
• Not surprising, SBOs did not rank finding
work of top importance like other audiences,
given that this group owned their own
• For SBOs, income ranked most important.
• Recent grads and SBOs were more likely to
discuss tips and look for advice on finding
• General worry about employment was more
prevalent in conversation among parents,
recent grads and SBOs.
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Recent graduates over-indexed on
more than half of the most
prominent discussion drivers
• Some audiences were more likely to discuss particular
topics than compared to total independent workers.
• Recent grads were nearly four times as likely as
independent workers overall to discuss taking on additive
work, meaning a freelance or contract job opportunity in
addition to their current full time or part time job.
Topic Parent Retirees
Finding Work 124 133 221 0
Income 115 243 139 167
Taxes 67 206 90 0
Tips 114 116 270 144
General Worry 169 121 215 128
News Sharing 108 123 220 0
Insurance 145 229 154 0
Asking Questions 92 97 209 131
Flexibility 218 183 163 156
Resume 63 76 369 83
Unemployment 88 194 220 0
Not Earning Enough 149 158 251 241
Loneliness 211 128 204 115
Networking 76 119 273 188
Sites 11 26 68 217
Hourly Rate 56 123 151 283
Additive Work 173 117 396 179
Gig Economy 20 130 51 800
*Please note orange shaded boxes represent a score notably above index.
Copyright © 2016 Cision. All rights reserved.15
Parents valued the flexibility independent work offered, but were twice as likely to
express feelings of loneliness
• Some of the top discussion drivers among parents were topics that
generally leaned positive in tone, such a finding work, income and
sharing tips and advice about independent work.
• Some parents discussed moving from a full time position to a contract
position at the same company following the birth of a child. Other
parents were on Etsy or similar sites, selling handmade goods as
• Parents were twice as likely to discuss the flexibility of their schedule,
and appreciated the ability to organize their days around family
commitments and childcare schedules.
• Negative conversation among parents included general expressions
of worry and stress, feeling overwhelmed about trying to manage
• The lack of insurance benefits was another pain point that surfaced
among the five most discussed topics for this group.
• Parents were also twice as likely to express feelings of loneliness with
their work situation. Some mentioned that they missed having
colleagues to collaborate with or just having day to day interactions
Top Discussion Drivers Top Indexing Topics
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Retirees were focused on income, often leveraging independent work to supplement retirement
budget or offset unforeseen expenses
Top Discussion Drivers Top Indexing Topics • As an audience, retirees were focused on making sure their finances
were in order to ensure sufficient income to cover expenses without
working. Many, however, discussed independent work to help offset
unforeseen medical expenses or to supplement a lean retirement
• Three of the top 5 discussion drivers among retirees were topics that
all leaned negative in tone: taxes, insurance and general worry.
Retirees were twice as likely to discuss taxes and insurance as
independent workers overall.
• Chief tax concerns included questions about tax deductions, 1099
forms and IRAs.
Copyright © 2016 Cision. All rights reserved.17
Top Discussion Drivers Top Indexing Topics • The audience was more likely to discuss resumes, considering how to
best position independent or freelance work, and twice as likely to
discuss strategies for networking.
• Recent graduates were motivated in their search for employment, with
sharing tips and advice on how to find jobs (full time and independent
work) surfacing in one quarter of buzz among the group.
• They also actively shared or discussed articles about the gig economy
and independent work on social channels like Twitter and Facebook.
• Recent graduates were more than three times as likely as
independent workers generally to take on work or projects in addition
to current full time and part time employment as the audience was
eager to have supplemental income.
• While many top discussion drivers for the audience leaned positive in
tone, negative conversation for this group included general anxiety
and worry about finding work and concerns about not being able to
earn enough to pay their bills, surfacing twice as likely as independent
More than one third of discussion among recent grads focused on finding work
Copyright © 2016 Cision. All rights reserved.18
SBOs were likely to look to others for tips or advice or ask questions about topics
important to them, like income and hourly rates
Small Business Owners
Top Discussion Drivers Top Indexing Topics • SBOs were twice as likely to discuss hourly rates than total
independent workers. This conversation included questions to other
independent workers about what factors they took into consideration
to help set rates or provide quotes on projects.
• They were also more likely to discuss freelancer sites like Elance or
Upwork, noting positive or negative experiences trying to outsource or
subcontract business through these sites.
• Like recent graduates, SBOs were also twice as likely to talk about
their worries about not earning enough income to make ends meet or
relay that they were struggling to make a living.
Copyright ©2016 Cision. All rights reserved.19
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