Yesterday, we attended an event organised by Kantar Media which explored how media outlets can win back trust. Kantar Media conducted a survey, entitled ‘Trust in News’, which explored the complex relationship between consumers and news outlets in the wake of the fake news phenomenon.
The results, garnered from four markets (Brazil, France, UK and USA), revealed that mainstream news has been mostly unaffected by the anxieties surrounding fake news, but that social media and digital-only platforms are treated with far more suspicion.
The survey exposed some resonating truths about the way we consume news. Historically, people tended to rely on just one news source, whilst the survey showed that more than a third are using more news sources than they were a year ago. This was especially common in the below- 55 category.
In addition, there is a high-degree of awareness of the source of the news as 28% of respondents said that they trusted traditional sources such as print, radio and TV more, while 58% admitted that they trust social media far less since the ‘fake news’ phenomenon.
Interestingly, 77% answered that they trust that what they read is true and not fake, most of the time, and 63% believe that a healthy democracy depends on a true and trustworthy press.
The survey also revealed that younger respondents are happier to pay for their news because they believe that financing the industry will ensure that media outlets can continue to survive and flourish.
Reasons for the disintegration of trust and possible solutions formed the basis of the discussion.
Funding, reputation, opinion and fact: what is true journalism?
Media outlets are mostly funded by a mix of advertising, paying readers and regular subscribers. Whilst reputation and accuracy are key for media, advertisers also exert an influence – modest in some cases, overt in others. Some journalists are often treading a fine line between the two, often compromising by producing click-bait articles to drive traffic.
Forbes have a model whereby journalists are paid a base salary, but then receive bonuses based on the number of clicks their article receives. Whilst rewarding creativity, there was some suggestion that this can also create pressure to produce more articles in a short space of time, with little attention to rigorous accuracy checks.
Although it receives much criticism from high-brow publications and individuals, the Daily Mail Online is still widely read and celebrities direct their PRs to place them in the online ‘sidebar of shame’. Clearly, trivial celebrity gossip is still what interests many consumers and media outlets are happy to provide this.
Another problem is the issue of paid-for content. Companies want to promote their agenda and use advertising to achieve this, and for the lay-person reading the news source, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between paid-for content and genuine journalism.
The desire to build a strong reputation as a reliable news source increases the stringency of accuracy checks. Simon Neville formerly of BuzzFeed shared that the outlet required more detailed citation than other media outlets he had worked for, perhaps because of their plan to move away from the public image of BuzzFeed as pop culture entertainment.
In recent years, journalistic style has changed with the blurring of the boundary between factual articles and comment pieces. Journalists are encouraged to build their own personal brand, through twitter and other digital platforms, which personalises them and allows unfettered sharing of their opinions. The trend is also reflected in media outlets, as there is greater demand for longer, analytical articles.
In-depth quality and analysis increase the consumer’s trust and generate greater interaction. All this raises the question: are lengthy articles the future? Perhaps. It was noted that with the millennial generation, journalistic formatting has undergone a massive change as it becomes more activist- leaning and a variety of opinions are presented.
One thing was certain – it’s clear that the news media is still hugely influential and will continue to shape debate and discussion for some time to come.
By Avital Mendelsohn and Yasmin Mckelvie