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Trading on trust: State of the media

04 September, 2019

Trust plays an integral role in our lives from simple tasks through to big life decisions. Who, or what we trust, informs our decision making. The media industry also trades on trust and as digital technologies continue to cause upheaval in the Australian media landscape, Roy Morgan’s timely 2019 State of the Nation Media research highlights the continuing importance of trust and distrust. Their research reveals what media channels and brands we trust the most and which ones we turn to for our news.

We still trust traditional media

Despite warnings of the demise of traditional news media, Roy Morgan’s research reveals that not only are print newspapers still widely read by the Australian public, but newspapers are the channel Australians trust more than any other media type. Interestingly, although print news media is slowly declining in readership, a number of publications actually experienced an increase in their readership on the previous year. The Australian Financial Review increased its print and online audience by an impressive 15.8%, while the West Australian and The Saturday Paper also recorded cross-platform increases. The cross-platform aspect of these results is significant and reveals the payoff of traditional media’s ongoing efforts to adapt to changes in the media landscape through digital technologies.


In another win for traditional news media, the media brand Australians trust the most is the ABC. Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine attributes this trust in the ABC to being “driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, quality journalism and ethics.” Conversely, social media was found to be the most distrusted media channel led by Facebook, with “fake news” and “privacy concerns” just two of a number of reasons for this scepticism.


At first glance these results signal hope for traditional media, but it would be naïve to ignore the fact that the research also reveals that despite print newspapers being the most trusted media channel, this trust was on the decline compared with 2018. Comparatively, in spite of recent controversies Facebook saw improved levels of distrust on the previous year. Social media continues to poach readers from traditional media with Facebook growing its users by 32.4% over the past four years.


A smart phone is seen displaying the Facebook social media app

Image: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt


So what does this tell us about the future of our media landscape?

The devil is definitely in the detail. Yes, traditional news channels and brands continue to perform well in the face of disruption and upheaval, however, overall, their readership – and trust levels – are in a state of decline, whilst social media continues to grow in user numbers and user trust. Importantly though, consumers still prioritise the values that traditional news media deliver: quality journalism, impartiality and accuracy.


Could we be facing a future where social media re-positions itself to embody these same values? Facebook’s recent announcement to recruit journalists to curate a news section in order to combat the fake news that permeates their platform indicates that the answer to this question could likely be yes. So what would traditional news media need to do to compete in such a landscape? That question remains unanswered, but the results of their ongoing work to enter digital spaces points towards them being up to the task.


Feature image: AAP Image/April Fonti. All images supplied by AAP Photos image library

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