Despite persistent attacks on the free press from the leader of the free world, trust in traditional media is on the rise, contrasting with trust in social media platforms which is declining.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer surveyed 33,000 respondents across 28 markets; it found in the year leading up to 2018, the public’s perception of the media shifted, no doubt fueled by the fake news atmosphere.
In 2017, trust in traditional media rose by 13%, returning to 2012 levels of 61% after a long-term slump. It was the most trusted medium, seconded by search engines which dropped by 7% to 47% trust. Online only media increased by 5% to 45%, sitting just under search engines. Owned media and social media remained low. Furthermore, the wider media as an institution scored 24%, down from 26%.
Half of respondents were worried about being exposed to fake news. Of utmost concern is the news that 64% could not distinguish quality journalism from rumours our falsehoods. Further easing the spread of fake news is the fact that 42% said they only skim headlines on social media channels without reading content. This underlines the need for accurate headlines.
In the UK, only 32% of the public trust the ‘media in general’, this drops to 23% of young people. From 2017 adult trust remained static, youth trust rose by 6% from the really low base of 17%. Notably trust in select platforms or titles will be higher than this low average.
On the public's media diet, 33% claimed they are reading less news than they used to and a fifth said they are avoiding all news altogether. 40% blamed the depressing nature of news, 33% blamed media bias, 27% believe the news to be controlled by hidden agendas, and a quarter blamed sensationalisation. A fifth said news quality had decreased.
Social media, contrasting with the media, saw a slump as fake news scandals and algorithm changes. Both Twitter and Facebook have been linked to Russian manipulation of a free election and referendum.
Somewhat in response to this, 7 in 10 respondents said: “Social media companies don’t do enough to stop illegal or unethical behaviour on their platforms.” The same volume felt that social media companies did not clamp down on extremist content enough, nor were they doing enough to prevent bullying.
More than a third felt that social media was no longer a force for good, furthermore, 57% felt that the sites were exploiting people’s loneliness.
As a rule of thumb, prominent media outlets last year launched marketing campaigns to inform the public of the quality of their news packages against the misinformation ecosystem. Today's figures look to confirm that these efforts have at least helped rebuild the public's trust in the media.