Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 – Redefines Media & Gives Journalism Hope

This time of the year is always exciting. Whilst the economic and political elites are meeting in Davos at the World Economic Forum to discuss what will become the agenda points for business and government in 2018, the global communications and media community are dissecting the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer.

This 18 year old research piece which is the biggest survey conducted on attitudes to trust now has data from 33,000 respondents across 28 countries.

As ever, there is so much data to consume, positive and negative ways of interpreting that data and a global and country specific view.

However the three key take aways for communications professionals and media execs alike are the redefinition of media, faith in journalism and the importance of voices of authority.

Redefinition of Media

One of the most useful findings from this years survey is the redefinition of media. The question was asked how respondents defined media and the clear answer was a combination of platforms and publishers. On the platform side that means:

  • Social
  • News Apps
  • Search

Even in  a digitalised world it seems strange that the platforms of television, print and radio where over 50% of both time spent and advertising spend allocation are focused are not included here. Trust is surely driven through those mediums too?

But in a world where both communication and media execs are “focused on” or if you are being harsh “paranoid” about the digital duopoly of Google & Facebook it is not surprising that the platforms focused on here are social (48%), search (25%) and news apps (41%).

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More significant in this redefinition of media is the clear trifecta of publishers that are identified as:

  • Journalists
  • Brands
  • Influencers

Much has been written and talked about over the last decade when it comes to brand journalism, the influencer revolution and the high or low standing of journalism but finally we have proof that in the eyes of both an “informed” and “mass” population all three entities can be viewed of as media.

The question to be asked here is; whilst the three groupings can be entirely separate is it possible to be both a journalist, brand and influencer all at the same time?

Views will vary greatly on this but one thing is for sure those responsible for brand communications need to have or quickly develop a clear “owned media” strategy together with a smart approach to influencer relations to complement their existing work with traditional journalist or media relations.

Faith & Trust in Journalism

Even with the digital revolution which has brought us more content creators and channels than ever before, journalists remain the most important and significant group of people when it comes to a definition or media (89%).

And the good news for journalists does not stop there. They are now way more trusted than the platforms they publish on.


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2015 was a year of concern for the media and journalism communities. Search engines and social media platforms were more trusted than the media brands and individual journalists themselves.

But fast forward 3 years and we can see that the short lived spike in trust for platforms is over. In an era of “fake news”, questionable digital user / conversion metrics and allegations of state sponsored election interference, our trust in those digital platforms is declining significantly.

This data supports the findings of Mynewsdesk’s survey of over 3,000 journalists and communicators where a heavily decreasing trust level in social media as a source for journalists was identified.

On the other side trust in journalism or “traditional and online media only” is at it’s highest level in 4 years.

This is an opportunity for both individual journalists and media houses to realise that the trust between them and their audiences is a pillar of strength to build their futures on. If they put this trust at risk for either short-term economic benefit in the form of increased sponsored content and/or political allegiance we could see this figure fall again.

Another question linked to the increasing trust in journalism is; will we see more individual journalists go it alone and create their own trusted brands.

Some would argue that this has been the case for a long time with the freelancer economy as an answer to the decline of the traditional economics and business models of media.

However with this redefinition of media will we see this hybrid of content creator produced. A person that works as a journalist but can also work for a brand and will be a social influencer for their niche audience all at the same time?

Voices of Authority Regain Credibility

Experts have always been the most trusted spokespeople but in an era of challenged trust they are more important than ever.

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CEOs and journalists have always scored low on this question and it continues to surprise me that these two job titles make up the majority of interviews we see in the media.

The biggest surprise this year is the large drop in trust in a “person like you”. A few years ago when the social media revolution was taking hold in the the days when organic reach was over 10% we were all on a mission to find the “person like you.”

The 2018 data shows that maybe we have all realised that we have been living in somewhat of an echo chamber over the last few years and we should really listen to a technical or academic expert from time to time instead of a friend or neighbour whose strong opinions are often less than fact based.

How to maintain and improve trust in our organisations and brands will continue to dominate the agenda’s of media execs and marketers in 2018.

Everyone’s approach to this challenge will be different but a clear understanding of what and how media is defined for your audience will be important.

Combine this with a well thought through strategy on owned media, influencer relations and quality journalism together with the effective use of experts and you will be future proofed … for 2018 at least.

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