Erosion of the traditional? – On trust in the media

By Jan-Patrik Frohn, Alpha & Omega PR

Digitization has infiltrated nearly every aspect of daily life. In communication, consumption, love or traditional economy – digitization impacts our life everywhere. At a time when everyone with an internet connection can become his or her own media outlet, the Edelman Trust Barometer investigated the digital age’s impact on trust in the media.

Trust is an essential, if not the most essential commodity for both personal relationships and on a societal level. Trust is a connector, the social link within a population. Trust in the government, in institutions, in media and corporations all form the fabric of society. Media in a modern democracy is an essential tool to help the public make informed decisions and formulate opinions. Today, media still represents an important window to the world for the average citizen. Through media, an audience can stay informed about global affairs, while formulating opinions, and keeping up to date on events, products and services.

The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer investigates society’s trust in the media today and asks important questions. Who is ranked highest in the public’s trust barometer? Are the ‘new’ forms of media like social media and search engines catching up? And how does this influence Public Relations? Do we need new communication strategies?

Traditional media losing significance

The study shows that the use of media changes slowly, but steadily. Even though 74% of the interviewees still state that they watch TV several times a week, leaving TV in the top media outlet spot, the rest of the list has shifted. Search engines hold the second tier, 70% use them several times a week. Social media takes third place, used by 54%. The most noteworthy result: newspapers and the radio saw a significant drop on the trust barometer and occupy positions four and five with only 51% and 40% respectively. A blow below the belt for traditional journalism, which continues to downsize daily.

Brief interjection: Blogs are often made to be more significant than they really are – only 15% access them repeatedly in a week. As an opinion former, they are merely of marginal importance for the whole society.

These results illustrate that the use of media has diversified perceptibly. There is no longer a single outlet, standing alone as a window to the outside world, as the TV has done before. Nevertheless, it appears that more variety creates opportunity. The consumption of different forms of media allow for more freedom because various considerations with different focuses, opinions and conclusions can be taken into account. However, everyone is urged to develop an opinion out of the mass of media outlets, which makes an audience more responsible and potentially more differentiated. Therefore, the unprecedented variety gives the potential for more opportunity.

​Great opportunity

Now back to the research: Possibly the most surprising result of the barometer is that corporation media gained trust notably in one target group, namely Millennials (Generation Y). A considerable 43% trust corporate news, 10% more than people of the general population. This illustrates the increasing reputation of companies. Particularly with reference to the loss of trust in traditional forms of media, this circumstance clarifies that companies should increasingly address their target groups directly and furthermore, that the use of journalism becomes more and more random. Even though journalists are still among the most important media participants, who are able to share relevant key messages as well as authority due to their assumed objectivity, the outcome of the research indicates that corporations could and should distribute news discretely and concertedly. The consumer trusts and believes in these messages, which is why this resource should be used to its full capacity.

Global One Communication supports your company in the selective development and distribution of messages so that the firm itself will be perceived as resource for informative and relevant content.

The above is a guest blog post from our Global One Communication partner in Germany – Alpha Omega PR.