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Trump victory spotlights how the authority of media brands is dwindling in an increasingly filtered world

Trump's Twitter page

As Donald Trump prepares to assume the mantle of president of the United States, the media has once more come under the spotlight for its dwindling ability to inform and influence the political narrative, as the population's increased reliance on social breeds an era of insular politics.

Social media played a pivotal role in the US presidential election, in more ways than one. Donald Trump hand-fed the media tweets he knew would make headlines, and they happily complied in the hope of a traffic boost while the he revelled in free press. After all, no news is bad news, but bad news is good for business.

While the media lowered itself to clickbait Trump headlines, trust dwindled. In fact, trust in mass media in the US is at its lowest ever since 1972, according to a Gallup poll conducted in September. Consumers turned to social networks to make decisions, where the authority of media brands reporting facts is heavily diluted and signposted in the same way as comments and commentary from opinionated and extreme voices, suggested Douglas McCabe, chief executive of Enders Analysis.

This vicious circle, where reputable news brands are finding they have no influence over groundbreaking political decisions came to a head during Brexit, and has peaked again today.

With declining readership of traditional media and an increasing reliance on social networks for news delivery, the views that didn’t resonate with individuals were filtered out by the algorithms - the echo-chamber effect.

This raises serious questions as to how much people bypassed objective reporting to listen to like-minded people on social media, both during the EU referendum and the US election, resulting in a tremendous shock when decisions were made outside their own views.

“I’m a bit worried that we’re forgetting how to think and make our own conclusion – we have information, but it’s not making us informed,” Hagen said.

It is a view echoed by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei. In an appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show last week (4 November), he said the US presidential campaign highlighted “how much faith people have lost in media, and how frustrated people are at trying to figure out what can they trust and what can’t they trust”.

“And how can they get smarter in a world that’s growing more and more complex?,” he mused.

However, We Are Social’s research and insights director Andre Van Loon does not believe consumers will lose faith in social media as a result of increasing concerns over opinions based on algorithms, but instead will lose faith in traditional polls, which he believes are no longer "reliable indicators".

With the UK general election, EU referendum and now the US presidential election, the polls have been wrong every time - each error being bigger than the previous one.

The WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell today (9 November) mirrored this view, believing there was "a lot of reassessment" still to come over polling techniques which once again failed to predict the result.

"Electorates at times like these clearly don't like to be told how they're going to vote especially by the media and other elites," he added.

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