Faced with a blizzard of Covid-19 opinions, theories, statistics and projections, readers are becoming more discerning when choosing their news sources.
In May this year, as Covid-19 took a hold around the world, American public relations and marketing consultancy firm Edelman released its Trust Barometer Spring Update. It made for fascinating reading. Edelman found that a search for reliable information related to the pandemic had driven trust in news sources to an all-time high. Traditional media was up seven points and owned media eight points. Conversely, people were worried about fake news, with 67 per cent of respondents saying they were concerned about false and inaccurate information being spread about the virus. The message to the publishing industry was crystal clear: people crave trusted news sources more than ever before.
“There is a lot of information out there from a lot of sources, but now more than ever you need accurate, balanced, ethically generated content from brands that put journalism at the heart of what they do,” Jonathan Wright, Global Managing director at Dow Jones, said at a recent FIPP Insider Webinar hosted by James Hewes. “People are definitely more discerning about where they are getting their information from and we have seen a flight to quality news. It’s a trend we saw before Covid-19 but it has absolutely been accelerated.”
Let freedom reign
Dow Jones has seen subscriptions across the group increase by 10 per cent while Wall Street Journal traffic is up an eye-catching 74 per cent. While a proven track record for providing trustworthy content is important when readers pick their news source, the way media groups have made their reports available also plays an important role.
“It’s not a decision all publishers have made but The Wall Street Journal decided to make its coronavirus coverage free,” Wright pointed out. “We believe professional journalism is the cornerstone of democracy and plays a very important part in society. That fed into the decision to make the coverage free and front and centre. That has led to more discovery of our content and allowed us to engage with whole new audiences.”
A new dawn?
The search for quality journalism and a renewed trust in media could, some believe, herald a new purple patch for publishing.
“The corona crisis has shown that users deeply care about the quality, truthfulness and reliability of the source their content comes from,” said Jan Bauer, junior PR manager at German publishers Axel Springer. “With regards to publishing, the crisis may end up acting as an accelerant of existing developments and catalyse innovations.”