The FINANCIAL -- Media companies should consider prioritising quality, trust and self-regulation as consumers raise concerns over fake news, according to the annual KPMG Media Tracker report.
Fifty per cent of respondents to the survey of 2,000 UK adults said that they were concerned with the accuracy of news they read online. The findings show that just 12 per cent said that they were not worried by the issue.
The research, which was conducted by Populus and supported by IHS Markit, revealed that trust was identified as the most common factor that respondents considered when consuming news online.
TV ranked as the most reliable media source with nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of those surveyed saying they trusted it (13 per cent distrust). It was also named as the most popular source of news for the over 35s.
Despite social media being the most popular source of news for under 35s, nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents said that they were apprehensive about what they read on social media and only 17 per cent of stated they trust it. 18-24 year olds are most likely to believe the news content on social media feeds is not completely accurate (65 per cent).
David Elms, UK Head of Media at KPMG, said: “The speed and volume at which information is shared and consumed today makes the lines between news, entertainment, fact and opinion harder to discern. Reputable sources are displayed side-by-side with opinions and sensationalism and, increasingly, it is algorithms, not journalists, which decide which content we see first, or at all. The currency of the internet is engagement, but engagement doesn’t necessarily reflect accuracy and has eroded trust in news sources.
“There is an opportunity for media companies to differentiate their brand by building and ensuring trust at both a consumer and corporate level. Quality, and trust in that quality, is a value differentiator for many established media companies. The appetite for quality news is strong, but the right balance of quality and a price point that’s attractive to consumers hasn’t yet been found. As such, media businesses need to continue innovating.”
The findings revealed that media consumers living in London (57 per cent) and Scotland (56 per cent) expressed the most concern over the truthfulness of online news. People in Yorkshire and Humberside indicated the lowest level of concern (41 per cent) across the UK, according to the report.
Social media and the confirmation bias
The survey examined the challenge within social media networks of echo chambers and confirmation bias – a trend where individuals are fed back information that supports their existing beliefs rather than information that contradicts them. Only 14 per cent of respondents felt that news in their social media feeds challenged their views.
Elms said: “Consumers have access to more sources of information than ever before and this means more interpretations of events, facts, and statistics. There are two key effects of this: confirmation bias and lack of challenge. Social media networks are made up of sub-groups of individuals with similar opinions to one another which can mean simple confirmation of existing views without sensible challenge.
“The role of social media sites, which act as both news aggregators as well as news creators, has not yet been clearly defined. Rightly, they are increasingly focused on monitoring content but, to a large extent, it still remains unclear the extent to which they should control what information propagates within their domains.
“This is leading to further scrutiny and natural demands for formal regulation, but the reality is that it will be difficult to enforce in a fast changing and fast evolving online environment. Regulation may need to focus on a principles-based regime which would give them considerable power. It may be easier for self-regulation to uphold ethical and quality standards but there are doubts whether this will work – it’s clear there is no easy solution.”
Conditions improve for media sector as ad-spend rises
KPMG’s UK Media Sector Tracker Index found that business conditions in the media sector improved in Q1 2017, albeit marginally, and at one of the slowest rates seen over the past four years.
The composite index provides a barometer of prevailing conditions across the wider UK media sector. The index for fell to 50.8 in Q1 from 51.1 in Q4 2016 – although it remains above the crucial 50.0 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The industry was buoyed by a sharp uplift in ad spend plans among UK marketing executives, which saw 23 per cent report an uplift in budgets during the first three months of this year.