Trust in media: the new publishing battleground

Why is trust low for many media channels and brands? And how do marketers’ views differ from consumers’?

Trust matters. BrandZ data show that trust is highly correlated with brand preference and equity for all types of brands. Brands that are highly trusted see stronger growth over time.

However, people trust media brands less than brands in most other categories. Across countries, the social media category often has the lowest levels of trust. Video entertainment is generally the most trusted media category, but with just an average level of trust compared to other categories. Edelman’s Trust Barometer also shows that consumer trust in media categories isn’t getting better. Compared to 2020, levels of trust have declined for search engines, traditional, owned, and social media channels.

Trust in advertising formats

Advertising adds yet another dimension to trust. In our recent Media Reactions study, across all markets, consumers’ most trusted advertising environments are all offline media channels. TV ads are the most trusted, and newspaper, magazine, radio, and cinema ads make up the rest of the top 5.

There is a significant gap between users’ trust in offline and online channels. The offline channel average for trust is 20%, whereas it is only 11% for online channels. The picture is similar across the seven countries measured, but China was the country where the gap was the smallest at 5% because consumers have comparatively more trust in online channels.

Online publishers need to work on their collective reputation as trustworthy environments – although as we will see later, this is not necessarily an issue for all online media brands.

Streaming TV ads lead the online channels with average trust (ranked 8th of the 20 channels measured), followed by influencer branded content and news websites. The perception of online channels also differs by country. In China, news websites rank fourth overall, and in the U.S. podcasts are also fourth. Podcasts are also the most trusted online channel in Australia, but they only come in at 11th place.

This article was published exclusively on on April 29, 2021.