Back in November YouGov published the results of a ‘Trust in the media’ survey and it was bad news for newspapers. The survey found that ‘[last] summer’s phone-hacking scandal had resulted in media mistrust among members the public’. Here are some of the results:
- 64% of UK adults saw TV as the most trusted media outlet
- 58% said the same about radio
- 38% trusted newspapers, while 25% thought the same about magazines
Interestingly – given the ongoing Leveson Inquiry – nearly 1 in 5 (17%) UK adults think that they will be less likely to consult newspapers for their current affairs content in 2012. This is also perhaps a result of the ongoing phone hacking investigation; with 58% of respondents saying that the scandal which broke last year had reduced their level of trust in the newspaper industry. In addition to this, over half (51%) said it had reduced their trust in the UK media as a whole. Perhaps the most damning finding was that:
- Three in four people (74%) in the UK think media outlets sometimes, or frequently, lie to their audiences
- Over half – 55% – agree that the content in the UK media has been dumbed down in recent years
Tabloids in particular score very badly in terms of trust with a survey carried out last July by the University of Nottingham recording the damning statistic that just 5% of respondents trusted tabloid journalists. Just this month another survey was published (The Edelman Trust Barometer) that found that almost 70% of respondents did not trust ‘red-top’ tabloids – including the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror and the Sun – “to do what is right”. The survey did not provide much comfort for mid-market newspapers either. The Daily Mail and Daily Express only gained the trust of 26% of respondents, but the distrust of 45%.
However, as Roy Greenslade concluded from the results of this latest survey that with regards to red-tops, trust was ‘irrelevant to the millions who read them’. He pointed out that:
as the print sales figures show, those red-tops – The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star – together sold 4.2m copies even in the dismal sales month of December (with a probable readership of 12m plus readers).
To put that in perspective, sales of the other seven national titles – the middle market pair and five quality titles – collectively totalled roughly the same as the three red-tops.
In other words, though we might think trust plays a crucial role in the decision about media consumption, it is not the defining factor for the regular red-top reader.
It will be interesting to see if entertainment will continue to trump trust in the future, given that newspapers have clearly chosen to invest in entertainment at the expense of trust.