A recently released survey shows that commercial brands should seek out trusted news providers as their partners so as to share in their trust dividend.
What makes a news source trustworthy is clearly understood: it carries facts that have been verified by multiple sources, and the organisation is accountable for its mistakes or distortions, not only to the public but to its peers too.
What is equally clear is that there is a resurgence in the need for these trustworthy news sources to rise above the cacophony of fake news and lies to ensure people make life decisions based on truth.
A recent report has made it increasingly clear too that brands needing to build trust among their customers should do it through association with trustworthy news sources.
The report showed that not only should brands stick with accountable news sources for their own brand safety, but that doing so has the added benefit of that trust rubbing off on their brands too.
The News Trust Halo, a survey released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and research company Magid, interviewed 2 000 American adults about their news consumption and how it influenced their perception of products advertised in their trusted news brands.
The results demonstrated that advertising in news “is brand safe, increases trust and drives consumer actions”. Among those surveyed, 70% considered their chosen news sources to be trustworthy, while on average those surveyed accessed four different news sources, with two thirds most valuing hard or breaking news.
Interestingly, news readers don’t care if a brand is adjacent to a bad news story.
The survey notes: “Whether the news type is serious/breaking news, opinions/points of view, or lighter/entertaining news, consumers see advertising within news as having the same positive impact on brand trust.”
This is an interesting finding, given that during the thick of Covid-19 global lockdowns, the word most blocked by online advertising buyers was ‘coronavirus’, taking over from ‘Trump’. This blanket reaction ensured that brands missed the huge surge in readers of news in brand-safe environments – and the opportunity to be adjacent to fact-checked information.
A piece in The Conversation notes the findings of the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found that during this time when people are seeking good information, “the major news outlets are relied upon nearly twice as much as global health organisations (WHO) or national health organisations (CDC). Friends and family and social media lag badly, with the exception of developing markets such as South Africa.
“Young people rely evenly on social media (54%) and mainstream media (56%) while older people 55+ rate mainstream media as nearly three times more reliable than social. There is definite concern about fake news and false information being spread about the virus (74%).”
A dangerous trend
Perhaps one of the most damaging trends to emerge in the Edelman 20 Years of Trust report is the explosion of information deserts, fuelled by serious risks to democracy such as the closure of local newspapers and the growing divide between those who can pay for good news sources and those who cannot.
The huge losses in revenue incurred by news brands mean that they must get the money to make good content from those who can afford to subscribe. As a result, unequal access to verified, curated information is growing: those who can pay have it; those who can’t are left getting their news from social media (excluding more and more news brands), and their ill-informed relatives and friends.
Countering misinformation and disinformation is a full-time job even without dealing with the additional crisis of revenue, which leads to fewer journalists in newsrooms to counter the lies being effectively spread by social media and to fulfil their societal role of holding power to account.
As the Edelman 20 Years of Trust report says, “And there is now every sign that the information deserts may be spreading because, despite being more trusted overall, many traditional media companies are really struggling to survive financially. In developed nations in particular, newspapers and TV news organisations have seen revenues and profits lost to digital platforms such as Facebook and Google.
“Those who rely on digital advertising are finding life a lot harder than those with paid subscription models. By contrast, social media platforms and search dominate the digital advertising market. In recent years, Google and Facebook between them have taken up to 90% of all new money in digital advertising in numerous countries around the world.”
The good news is that advertisers don’t have to advertise in trusted news brands simply out of a sense of duty to democracy and truth; it is also best for their brands.
The IAB survey further found that brands advertising in trusted news brands could see a gain of as many as six points in their consumer trust score. “As an example, a telecommunications advertiser could see its consumer trust score increase from 60% to 66% by advertising in news.”
Also, consumers were more likely to take action if a brand advertised in their chosen news environment. The survey notes that “47% of consumers report that advertising in news increases positive perception of brand attributes and 42% of consumers say advertising in news drives brand engagement and action”.
For brands and trusted news sources alike, the desired outcome is the same: to give people the best information possible so that they can engage with it to make informed decisions at the right time to impact their lives, and the lives of those around them, positively.
Gayle Edmunds is the strategic projects editor of the Ads24 content hub. She brings her enthusiasm and broad experience in the journalism industry to this exciting position, having worked most recently at City Press, a publication she served for more than 14 years. Edmunds started out on the subs desk before moving to the position of managing editor, a position she held for more than seven years.
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