China Insights

'Fake news' reinforces trust in mainstream news brands

Kirsty Cooke

UK Editor

Digital 03.11.2017 / 18:36


Our ‘Trust in News’ survey shows that mainstream news still has a good reputation but ‘fake news’ has hit the reputation of social media sources.

Kantar today revealed the results of its global ‘Trust in News’ survey. It has revealed that the reputation of ‘mainstream news media’ remains largely intact while social media and digital-only news platforms have sustained major reputation damage as a result of the ‘fake news’ narrative during recent election cycles.

The study, which surveyed 8,000 individuals across Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America about their attitudes to news coverage of politics and elections, finds:

  • The efforts to brand ‘mainstream news media’ as ‘fake news’ has largely failed. The reputation of traditional print and broadcast media outlets has proven more resilient than social media platforms and online only news outlets, primarily as a result of the depth of coverage being delivered.
  • People retain a strong belief that quality journalism remains key to a healthy democracy, but are sceptical about what they read and the effectiveness of journalism in holding power to account.
  • Audiences are becoming more widely informed and sophisticated in their engagement with, and evaluation of, news content.
  • In both Brazil and the USA, a significant percentage of the population believes ‘fake news’ impacted the outcome of their most recent election.
  • There exists a clear growth opportunity for media brands in developing subscription models tailored for under 35s, who express a greater willingness to pay for news beyond print, at the right price.

Whom do we trust?

‘Fake News’ gained currency across the world in 2016 and 2017. Kantar has found that these attacks on ‘mainstream news media’ has largely failed to damage the reputation of ‘traditional news media’.

Across the USA, UK, France and Brazil there remains a strong belief (73% agreement) that quality journalism is key to a healthy democracy. 77% of UK respondents agreed. However, only slightly more than half believe what they read is true ‘most of the time’. Similarly, almost two thirds (61%) globally worry that news media are not holding politicians and business leaders sufficiently to account. 

The ‘reputational fallout’ in 2017 has been focused on social media companies while ‘traditional media companies’ reputations have been more resilient globally. Print magazines are the most trusted news sources, while social media sites and messaging apps are least trusted around the world (see chart below). Traditional broadcast channels (TV and radio) are second and third most trusted respectively, followed by newspapers. ‘Online only’ news outlets are trusted significantly less than their print and broadcast brethren.

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The reputational impact of the ‘fake news’ campaign has been predominantly borne by online only news channels, social media platforms and messaging apps (see below). News coverage of politics and elections on social media platforms (of which Facebook is dominant with 84% usage in the preceding week) and messaging apps (of which Whatsapp is the most used) is trusted less by almost sixty percent of news audiences (58% & 57% respectively). ‘Online only’ news outlets also sustained significant reputational damage in this respect: ‘trusted less’ by 41% of news audiences.

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24-hour news channels and news bulletins retain a strong reputational position as a trusted source with 78% of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more’ than before ‘fake news’. While 22% of news audiences trust 24 hour news channels less, 20% trust them more, with 58% trusting them the same as before. Print titles also proved reputationally more resilient, experiencing a smaller loss of trust, with print magazines and newspapers both ‘trusted less’ by 23% of audiences. Both categories however also experienced similar increases in trust. (23% and 17% respectively). Printed media nets out with more than three quarters of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more’ than before the ‘fake news’ phenomenon.

News consumption habits are evolving

The public is becoming a more widely informed audience. 40% of news audiences have increased the number of news sources they use. Under-35-year-olds are leading this, almost 50% of whom have increased their number of news sources. Television and online platforms (including video) are our primary source of news.

More than three quarters of news consumers claim to have independently fact-checked a story to verify it, while 70% have reconsidered sharing an article – worried that it might be fake news. On the flip side, almost one in five admit to sharing a story after reading only the headline (17.7%).

We are becoming a more thoughtful news audience. Across all news audiences’ social media is identified as a ‘news discovery platform’. Contrary to the ‘news filter bubble’ or ‘echo chamber’ narratives, our research finds that 40% of social media users explore alternate views to their own and almost two thirds worry that ‘personalisation’ will create a ‘news filter bubble’.

Sustainable revenue models

Despite a broad-based (44% of all news audiences, 52% of under 35 y/o) concern that established media businesses face a difficult financial situation, more than half of people (52.3%) don’t see the point of paying for news because of the volume of content available for free. Our research tells us several opportunities exist for established media companies to develop new customer bases.

Building trust in news brands is one potential path to increased revenue. Across all audiences, 40% have purchased a newspaper in the past week and 29% have made an online payment in the past year. Where ‘trust in newspapers’ exists this increases to 56% and 42% respectively. Brand building based on trust credentials – driven off their reputation for quality and depth of analysis – is one potential way forward for traditional media.

An age-based offline/online bifurcation persists in paid-for content. Online, 42% of under 35 y/o have paid for online news in the past year compared to just 18% of 55+ y/o (either a one-off payment or an ongoing subscription). Offline, 48% of 55+y/o have bought a newspaper in the past week, compared to 38% of under 35 y/o.

In the younger demographic, 17% of under 35 y/o would pay for digital news if it were less expensive. This is the demographic for whom subscription-based models in entertainment are becoming commonplace (Netflix, Spotify, etc.). Experimentation with price elasticity is a further route to maximising revenue from this small but significant percentage of the market. The engagement with news either online and offline by all age groups also suggests that an opportunity exists for seamless online/offline experiences to drive additional revenue growth. A fuller analysis different revenue model opportunities for online news can be found in Kantar Media’s ‘Attitudes to paying for online news’.

Final thoughts

News audiences in 2017 have a highly complex relationship with mainstream news. They have a surging appetite for news, while at the same time holding a firm belief that accuracy in journalism is a fundamental cornerstone of a democratic society. However, news organisations are under more scrutiny than ever before.

The most trusting audiences consume more content and are more willing to pay to fund journalism both offline and online, yet this trust is being eroded by the taint of “fake news” stories and accusations. While social platforms might be considered the catalyst for the growth in fake news, it is mainstream news that is often regarded as the originator and clearly a great deal of consumer education is needed to help identify false reporting and stem its flow.

The threat that fake news has on trusted news organisations, is part of a broader picture of the challenges around monetizing and distributing news content in a world where online is now one of the dominant platforms for new consumption. New challenges create new opportunities and the findings of this study reveal many positives for news organisations, advertisers and digital platforms alike with regards to the attitudes and appetites of news audiences.

Download the full study here.

Source: Kantar

Editor's notes

Download the full study here.

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