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Not all news platforms are created equal

We all have news outlets we trust more than others. While you might visit the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame for an occasional gossip fix, it’s likely you go elsewhere for your daily (hourly?!) Brexit updates. There are places we view as having a greater intrinsic value when it comes to news content. So much so, that many of us are willing to pay for the privilege of accessing that content, despite the fact that so much is now available for free, online.

Our recent study, Trust in News, demonstrates that the trust we place in certain media also has huge implications from a brand perspective. When it comes to ad placement, context really does matter to consumers, and not all media platforms are created equal.

It might not surprise you to hear that print is still perceived as the most reliable source for dependable, quality news content. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that this is the case for all generations – whether you’re a digital native or a baby boomer. While many of us may consume much of our news via our Facebook or Twitter feed, there is still a huge amount of skepticism about the quality and reliability of news on social channels, not helped by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the proliferation of ‘fake news’.

Social anxiety

Not only are people less likely to trust news they see on social platforms – the same content is less trusted on social than in other places. 80% of the people we spoke to said they trust high-quality news organizations’ content on their owned channels, but this drops to 57% when that same content appears on the publishers’ social platforms.

We also found that ads running in print and on television garner more audience trust than digital and social campaigns. 60% of respondents trust ads running in print media compared to 58% trusting those that run on television and 49% trusting ads on a digital platform. The message for advertisers is clear – context counts.

It’s not just that people don’t trust news on social media, or the ads that support it, it’s that they don’t value it. Our research reflects the notion that for most consumers, if something is free, it holds less intrinsic value. And if it’s in print or on broadcast channels, it automatically gains more weight and authority.

Mindful about media

That’s not to say that all print and broadcast media garners the same level of trust, though. People are more likely to trust a media brand built on transparency, integrity, and reliability – nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s worth emphasizing. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said a key element of their trust in a news organization is based on a trustworthy past. Consumers value strong, well-researched news content backed up by facts and figures.

Given this, marketers should consider what their ad placement says about their brand and what it stands for. Rather than simply chasing reach, they should be seeking to ensure people engage with their messages in a more meaningful way, in a media environment which they trust and value. And for media owners who wish to attract advertisers, there has never been a greater need to develop a strong, trustworthy brand.

If we aim to add long-term value to our brands and businesses, it’s vital that we make mindful media choices. In a world of limitless free content and fake news, the smart brands will recognize that reach at any cost is no longer a viable option.

Greg James is global chief strategy officer at Havas Media Group

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