In the past, encouraged by a strong economy, consumers found core societal institutions, government, business, NGOs and media, both competent and of high ethical standing. Unfortunately, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, this sentiment is no longer true due to the rise of violence, government corruption, fake news, financial insecurity, and other unsettling conditions. Today’s consumer does not trust the government, businesses, NGOs, or media.
Edelman defines trust based on a combined measurement of these two distinct attributes: competence (delivering on promises) and ethical behavior (doing the right thing and working to improve society). The Edelman Trust Barometer is based on an online survey sampled of more than 34,000 respondents across 28 markets.
Edelman reports a significant imbalance of trust, a 14-point gap, settings a new record among the informed public and the mass population. The informed public, defined by Edelman as a wealthier, more educated and trusting consumer cohort, are far more trusting of every institution than the mass population.
Within the media sector, search engines and traditional media (newspapers and broadcasting) are equally trusted at 61%. Social media, on the other hand, is the least trusted media source at 39%. And in developed countries traditional media outperforms social platforms by 30 points on average.
Social platforms continue to fuel the growth of distrust in media. While smartphones offer the power of communication in the user’s hand, this accessibility also accelerates the flow of user generated content and comments. Unfortunately, social amplifies and exaggerates false and misinformation and magnifies filter bubbles of extremism. It’s no wonder that three-quarters of respondents (76%) said that they worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon.
For the first time this year, the Edelman Trust Barometer asked respondents to rate if an institution is doing well to very well on different issues. Related to this was a question to gauge the potential impact on trust associated with each issue. Media companies scored lowest on five issues: keeping social media clean, being objective, information quality, important vs. sensationalized content and differentiate opinion and fact. However, if media companies perform better on these issues, it will drive significant consumer trust.
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It’s important for premium publishers, when working with social platforms, to ensure their brands are clearly differentiated from the platforms where their content appears. Further, publishers should continue to find new ways to build trust, especially on the issues with the most potential to growth in trust. Because, given their direct one-to-one relationship with consumers, trust is a critical factor for publisher success.