Tag Archives: Craig Newmark

Has social media increased trust in mainstream news?

It’s not news that American news consumers don’t think much of the media’s news reporting. I’ve seen a number of studies and they all hover around 20% trust in the news. That’s a whopping 80% who say they don’t have much trust. Those numbers were confirmed by a study commissioned by Craig Newmark of craigslist fame and published on his site craigconnects.org. The survey results are neatly presented in this infographic published on that site.

The answer–by more than 2 to 1 the respondents said social media has a negative impact on news coverage. 17% said positive, 34% said negative impact. I find that fascinating and would love to understand the reasons why so many think it is negative.

An even more important and interesting question asked of the 1001 and survey respondents was what factors do they consider most important in news coverage. Here’s the summary:

– Speed (first to report the story) 6%
– Free 8%
– In-depth analysis 23%
– trustworthy 49%

The remaining percentage was refused to respond or don’t know.

I have a feeling this is one of those survey questions where people’s behavior doesn’t match the way they answer the question. If that were the case, only truly responsible news outlets would be getting the audience. The fact is, ratings show that other factors are critically important including speed, emotional content, compelling story telling, striking visuals, etc. As much as I am critical of today’s news coverage (as any frequent reader here will recognize) the people running these channels are not dumb–they are giving people what they want.

Trust is somewhat of a slippery concept as we can see in the extreme partisanship of news coverage. Where some would say they trust Sean Hannity others would say they trust Rachel Maddow. Trust has an awful lot to do with our starting point, not some sort of objective measurement to which we can all essentially agree. The fact that the study shows greater trust in mainstream media among Democrats than Republicans may simply be an indication that the mainstream media for a long time has been more aligned with Democratic ideas and values than that Dems are inherently more trusting than Republicans.

Before I go wandering off into politics here, let’s bring this back to crisis communication. The opportunity here is huge for those who understand that increasingly they are the broadcaster. That means the inherent lack of trust in media, and in social media, can work to the advantage of official communicators BUT only if their organization and leaders understand that nothing is more important than protecting their credibility. That means being completely and unflinchingly honest. It means that telling everything is as important as telling the truth in what you do tell. That’s where it gets hard, but trust is built when you willingly and openly disclose the ugly truth, even when–no, especially when, it really hurts.


Craigslist sued for prostitution ads, Seattle PI may be going digital

I found two items today in Bulldog Reporter of interest. One, Craigslist is being sued by Cook County, Illinois for allegedly being the biggest source of prostitution in the country. The other is about the Seattle PI, owned by Hearst, shutting down as a daily and considering going to an online only version.

What do the two have in common? The newspaper industry is in shambles and Craigslist is undoubtedly one significant reason. The revenues from classified advertising have long been a major source of funding for newspapers, helping to keep the journalists paid, along with display advertising of course. Nothing has impacted classifieds like online classifieds and craigslist more than any. The fact that they are mostly free and extremely effective (I’ll testify to that) makes it a no-brainer to shift from newspaper classifieds to craigslist.

Craigslist is one of the real darlings of the Internet age. The ethos of founder Craig Newmark has been almost universally hailed. I heard him speak as a keynoter at the PRSA conference in Detroit and the crowd absolutely loves his humility, his aw shucks I’m just a Customer Service Representative message, and almost everything about him.

I suspect the Internet crowd will flock to the defense of Craigslist relating to this charge of promoting and supporting prostitution. Newmark in my mind pretty well captures of the ethos of the Internet crowd with his political inclinations and libertarianism. But what I’m wondering is if the aura of almost mystical awe surrounding Mr. Newmark and Craigslist will continue. If you are wondering what I mean, here is an example article from Capital Valley that carries the headline about Newmark–“humble but awesome.”

It is probably seen as part of his humility that he disavows any connection to the problems of the newspaper industry. Here is his comment from the above mentioned article:

With regard to his effect on newspaper classified revenues, the myth that Craigslist is killing them is just that, a myth, says Newmark.

I guess what I’m suggesting is that given the realization of the impact on the media business, given the lawsuit and growing public awareness of what might be considered the seedier side of Craigslist, I’m not certain if the continuing aw shucks humility of Mr. Newmark will be enough to protect and enhance a stellar reputation. I certainly am not suggesting that people will start refusing to take advantage of this powerful free service. But I am suggesting that the door may be opening for some competition that takes a little different view on some of these things.

It will be interesting to see how Craigslist and Mr. Newmark respond to these growing challenges. They failed the first test as no one was available for comment.