The Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 redefines the media

By Jonathan Bean, chief marketing officer at Mynewsdesk.

Have you dissected the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018?

This 18-year-old research piece, which is the most significant survey conducted on attitudes to trust now, has data from 33,000 respondents across 28 countries. And as always, the report contains so much data.

However, the three essential takeaways for communications professionals are the redefinition of media, the faith in journalism and the importance of voices of authority.

Redefinition of Media

The survey asked respondents how they define media. And the answer was clear: it’s a combination of platforms and publishers.

On the platform side, that means:

  • Social
  • News Apps
  • Search

Even in a digitalized world, it’s strange that television, print, and radio are excluded. Those channels still account for over 50% in both time-spent and advertising-spend allocation. Isn’t trust undoubtedly driven through those mediums too?

But in a world where industry execs are concerned about the digital duopoly of Google & Facebook, the focus on social (48%), search (25%) and news apps (41%) aren’t surprising.


More importantly,  in this redefinition of media is the clear trifecta of publishers:

  • Journalists
  • Brands
  • Influencers

Brand journalism, the influencer revolution, and the high or low standing of journalism, aren’t new to the communications sector. But finally, we’ve got proof that in the public eye, all three entities are seen as media.

While the three groupings can be entirely separate, is it possible to be both a journalist, brand, and influencer simultaneously?

Views will vary significantly. But surely, brand communicators need to develop in clever combination an “owned media” strategy, with influencer and media relations.

Faith & Trust in Journalism

Even with the digital revolution, which has brought us an unprecedented amount of content creators and channels, journalists remain the most significant group regarding a definition of media (89%).

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


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 three 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 confidence in those digital platforms is declining.

This data supports the findings of Mynewsdesk’s survey.

Of over 3,000 journalists and communicators  surveyed, we found a decreasing level of trust in social media as a source of information.

On the other end, trust in journalism or “traditional and online media only” is at its highest level in 4 years.

The media industry should realize that the trust between them and their audiences is a pillar of strength to build from. If they jeopardize that because of the short-term economic benefit of increased sponsored content or political allegiance, we could see this figure fall again.

Also, 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. Due to the decline of traditional media business models, the freelance economy has bloomed.

However, with this redefinition of media, will we see this new hybrid of content creator produced? Meaning, a journalist who works for a brand and as a social influencer for their niche audience all at once.

Voices of Authority Regain Credibility

Experts have always been the most trusted spokespeople, but in an era of distrust, they are more critical than ever.


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

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

The 2018 data shows a different picture. Maybe, we now realize that we have all been living in an echo chamber over the last few years. Perhaps, we now understand that we should listen to a technical or academic expert from time to time instead of a friend or neighbor whose strong opinions are often less than fact-based.

How to maintain and improve trust in our organizations will continue to dominate the agendas of media execs and marketers in 2018. Everyone’s approach to this challenge will be different, but a clear understanding of what and how we define media will be significant. Combine that with a well thought through strategy on owned media, influencer relations, and quality journalism, together with the practical use of experts, and you will be future proofed.


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