Print and broadcast media have held up to attacks from politicians.

Populist politicians around the world have attempted to label mainstream news outlets as purveyors of “fake news”. The results of Kantar’s global 'Trust in News' study has found that those efforts have failed to have their desired impact. In fact, the attacks have only bolstered the standing of many news organizations in the eyes of consumers.

Kantar surveyed 8,000 individuals across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Brazil about their attitudes toward news coverage of politics and elections. Key findings among American consumers included:

  • 81.4% of Americans seek out news at least once a day.
  • Printed national daily or Sunday newspapers and printed news magazines are considered the most trustworthy sources of news.  
  • 24-hour news channels are a dominant source of information, followed by printed local newspapers and news media websites and apps.
  • 32.4% of Americans say they use a greater number of news sources now than 12 months ago. That number rises to 50.3% among 18 to 34 year olds.
  • 56.4% of Americans agree or strongly agree that “most of the time, I trust that the news I’m seeing is true and not fake news”.
  • More than 80% of Americans believe the health of our democracy depends on journalists reporting the facts accurately.

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. This comes as audiences are becoming more widely informed and sophisticated in their engagement with, and evaluation of, news content.

“We know the major social media companies have started to address the ‘fake news’ problem,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP. “In quantifying the extent to which ‘fake news’ has damaged the reputations of social media brands as sources of news, this study reinforces how important that work will be moving forward.”

“Traditional news media have largely rebutted the “fake news” accusations and continue to enjoy high levels of trust among news audiences,” said Eric Salama, chief executive officer of Kantar. “The challenge now is for those companies to monetise that loyalty and we've identified some routes for them to explore.”  

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’ have largely failed to damage the reputation of ‘traditional news media’.

Across the USA, UK, France and Brazil there remains a strong belief (73% agreement globally, 81% agreement in the US) that quality journalism is key to a healthy democracy. However, only slightly more than half of Americans believe what they read is true ‘most of the time’. Similarly, almost two-thirds (63%) 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. Printed daily or Sunday newspapers are the most trusted news sources in the US, while online-only and social media sites are least trusted (see chart below). 

The reputational impact of the ‘fake news’ campaign has been predominantly borne by online-only news channels, social media platforms and messaging apps (figure two). 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 Snapchat is the most used) is trusted less by almost half of news audiences (54% &49% respectively). ‘Online only’ news outlets also sustained significant reputational damage in this respect: ‘trusted less’ by 40% of news audiences. 

Television news channels and news bulletins retain a strong reputational position as a trusted source with 71% of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more’ than before ‘fake news.’ While 30% of news audiences trust 24-hour news channels less, 18% trust them more, with 52% trusting them the same as before. Print titles also proved reputationally more resilient, experiencing a smaller loss of trust, with print magazines and local newspapers both ‘trusted less’ by 22% of audiences..

News consumption habits are evolving

The public is becoming a more widely informed audience. 32.4% of news audiences have increased the number of news sources they use. Under-35-year-olds are leading this, 50% of whom have increased their number of news sources.

Some 70% of news consumers claim to have independently fact-checked a story to verify it, while 64% have reconsidered sharing an article – worried that it might be fake news. Nearly 15% admit to sharing a story after reading only the headline.

Sustainable revenue models  

Despite a broad-based concern that established media businesses face a difficult financial situation, more than half of people 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. In the US, 45.2% have purchased a newspaper in the past week and 33% have made an online payment in the past year. 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, 54% of under 35 y/o have paid for online news in the past year compared to just 15% of 55+ y/o (either a one-off payment or an ongoing subscription). Offline, 51% of 55+y/o have bought a newspaper in the past week, compared to 43% of under 35 y/o. In the younger demographic, 19% 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. 

The full study can be downloaded here. Trust in Media Full Report

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