Claire pulls out two interesting findings for discussion: the increased trust in national media (up from 46% last year to 70%) and the extremely low levels of trust in social media (only 5% trust blogs; 1% trust forums).
Back then we summised that the increased trust in media was due to a ‘bounce’ following the media’s public contrition after its dressing down last year over the numerous vote fixing and competition rigging scandals.
The low trust in ‘bloggers’ (bottom of the pile, I believe) was due to people responding to a concept rather than personality. After all, trust in “someone like me” (argubly exactly what bloggers are, compared to formal media channels) topped the rankings.
However, Claire offers an alternative analysis, indicating that the public want more objectivity:
“my personal opinion is that the consumers of media, having so much more content to choose from, have become more savvy about their options. When choosing your news channel, the objectivity of the source is the key. Generalising massively here, I would say that while social media is often authentic, it is less likely than traditional media to be objective. Many blogs tend to focus on ‘opinion’ rather than ‘reporting’. And there’s the issue – how much do any of us trust the opinion of someone whom we know nothing or very little about?”
But I’m afraid I must argue with Claire’s interpretation here (no offence!).
My (personal) reading is that objectivity has always been a delicate lie which is being increasingly exposed as the internet offers us more and more conflicting accounts of (news) events around the world. For example, type in a top news stroy in Google news and you can get numerous different accounts of the event from a range of opposing – yet supposedly ‘objective’ media outlets.
Claire asks ”how much do any of us trust the opinion of someone whom we know nothing or very little about?” But in a way this overlooks the point. Blogs and forums are not populated by strangers, but rather once you have spent time getting to know the people that contribute to blogs and forums you realise they are “people like me” – and as Edelman’s Trust barometer indicates, the most trusted source of information.
If you unpick Metrica’s survey results there are some more findings that are worth investigating.
For instance, the survey showed “the internet in general has gained four percentage points [of trustworthiness], with 34% of UK adults now saying they trust its content.” With most adults unlikely to differentiate between a blog, forum, UGC site and ‘general internet content’ – not to mention newspaper sites with comment features – how does this square with the overwhelming number of those that distrust specific tools like blogs and forums?
In addition: “News sites as a specific online media type though do fair a lot better with 54% – more than national newspapers!” I think this finding needs further delineation: national newspapers *are* online, aren’t they. How exactly is the Times online more trustworthy than the Times in print?
So I suspect that if you can unpick the survey data or carry out a similar survey with a specifc focus on online then the results may yield even more interesting interpretations.
As a footnote to this post, the advertising firm Universal McCann has just published a report examining the rise of “trusting strangers” – as it puts it. I haven’t read it yet but judging from it’s slightly negative title I suspect it will come at peer-to-peer communications from an adland perspective – i.e. how can advertisers mimic the trust generated through word-of-mouth.
The answer is simple: build deep relationships. But this is something the ad industry has never been able to do. Will we see this start to change?