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Survey showing that ‘trust in the UK’s national media is on the up’ actually shows nothing

September 12th, 2008Posted by in Online Journalism

Do you trust the telephone more than the internet, might have been a more valid question than that asked by media company Metrica’s UKPulse survey this week, when it questioned respondents on what they thought were the most trustworthy forms of media.

According to their press release (to which there is no link on the Metrica site), the study asked 13,000 UK adults whether they trusted the internet more than newspapers.

So far so good – it’s an important question. But in the company’s analysis of the results, it compared the internet with news sites.

“The internet in general has gained four percentage points, with 34% of UK adults now saying they trust its content. News sites as a specific online media type though do fair [sic] a lot better with 54% – more than national newspapers!”

That’s like comparing the percentage of people who trust the printed pages of books, with the percentage of people who trust Bill Bryson. It’s simply not a useful comparison.

The internet is the publishing medium, and is not comparable to TV channels or newspapers, which are editorially directed. The internet is the technology by which material is reproduced (in some cases the same material as that appearing in newspapers). When people said they trusted television they weren’t talking about their television sets, rather the channels they watch.

By and large, news site content is the same as the content of newspapers, so it seems bizarre that people trust online news sites more. What is even more baffling, is that blogs fared worse than news sites for gaining people’s trust. But, these very news sites have blogs.

I need persuading that any kind of fruitful analysis can be gleaned from this rather badly thought out study. When someone comes up with relevant and comparable categories then this type of study would be extremely revealing.

For example, do people trust a well-known newspaper journalist’s blog more than an unknown blogger’s?

Furthermore, as Adrian Monck points out in the comments on Roy Greenslade’s blog:

“The problem with trust polling is that it says nothing about the reliability of the media, whilst giving the appearance of providing an answer…”

Greenslade himself asks us about the significance of the increase in trust in UK media, but I think the real question to be asked here is how to profitably analyse people’s trust in different types of online media.

Does anyone know of any good studies conducted on people’s trust in new media? Or how best to measure the media’s reliability?

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  • http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters Richard Bagnall

    Hi Judith,

    Thanks for your interest in UKPulse and the debate it has prompted after Roy Greenslade’s post this morning. As Metrica’s Claire O’Sullivan said to Roy, it was likely to prompt some interesting debate, and I think she was right!

    I thought it would be useful just to clarify a couple of points about UKPulse. UKPulse is a marketing planning tool that is powered by a massive omnibus survey into all aspects of the lifestyles of the UK population. The research, through UKPulse, is used predominantly by the public relations and advertising industries to create and then interrogate the lifestyles of their key audiences, including, importantly, their media consumption habits. The trust question is just one of many that the survey asks. The specific question asked was:

    “I usually trust the following types of media for reliable information…”

    and it then lists TV, national newspapers, regional and local newspapers, national radio, local radio, internet news sites, internet review / recommendation sites, blogs and online groups / forums

    The questions do not ask whether the population trusts one media type more than another. Rather, the comparative data comes from the same research undertaken in the past.

    The question was asked not to provide detailed research into trust levels of different media types, but rather to throw up a broad litmus test to which media people trust broadly. Your question:

    “do people trust a well-known newspaper journalist’s blog more than an unknown blogger’s”

    is absolutely correct, and is one that we cover ourselves in more detail on Metrica’s blog Measurement Matters. The URL is http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters where we really hope to welcome you and your readers to join the debate.

  • http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters Lucy Chapman

    Following neatly on from the discussion above about trust in the media is this article from the BBC which discusses, amongst other things, labelling websites according to their trustworthiness.

    Not sure how this would work in practice, though…the words “can” and “worms” come to mind! I’ve posted more about this on our blog and we’d love to hear others’ thoughts on it too: http://www.metrica.net/MeasurementMatters/post/2008/09/Trust-in-the-Media—The-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.aspx

  • http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters Lucy Chapman

    Following neatly on from the discussion above about trust in the media is this article from the BBC which discusses, amongst other things, labelling websites according to their trustworthiness.

    Not sure how this would work in practice, though…the words “can” and “worms” come to mind! I’ve posted about this on our blog and we’d love to hear others’ thoughts on it too: http://www.metrica.net/MeasurementMatters/post/2008/09/Trust-in-the-Media—The-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.aspx

  • http://www.metrica.net/measurementmatters Lucy Chapman

    PS. Link to the BBC article is: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7613201.stm

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