Generating revenue begins with building trust.
“Trust leads to engagement, we know that leads to loyalty, and that can lead to revenue,” explained Sally Lehrman, CEO and founder of The Trust Project, during the recent INMA Latin American News Media Summit. “The Center for Media Engagement found people were more willing to pay for journalism if they knew the organisation is committed to integrity.”
As more people have started getting their news from disparate online sources, fake news has proliferated and trust in the media has fallen.
“Public figures and disinformation artists have poured confusion into digital media,” she said. And that has created more doubt in the news. Disillusioned, people have turned away from the news.
The Trust Project works to overcome that disappointment and distrust in the news. After studying patterns in what makes people trust the news, it developed eight trust indicators that its member organisations rely on.
These indicators include explaining the company’s policies and standards; providing diverse voices; being transparent in such things as how the information is acquired, the journalists’ background, methods for attaining information, etc., and clearly labelling work as opinion, analysis, advertising, and so forth.
“With the trust indicators, trust grows. That was found in the evaluations of news organisations as well as evaluation of journalists,” Lehrman said.
Trust Project News Partners must commit to the principles of socially responsible journalism and show the eight trust indicators on their Web pages.
Lehrman provided a case study from A Gazeta in Brazil as an example of how embracing the trust indicators is good for business. As a Trust Project news partner, A Gazeta began to separate opinion pieces from news stories and then labelled the different types of stories.
“It makes people upset when they’re blended,” Lehrman explains. “So we had to separate that out.”
As part of their work with the Trust Project, A Gazeta strengthened its standards and then communicated those new standards to the public.
As a result, tools like reporting errors and talking to the editor went from nearly nothing to around 200 engagements a month. A Gazeta doubled its online audience and enjoyed a 40% advertising increase from 2021 to 2022.
Such examples show investing in integrity and building trust with readers is good for business, Lehrman said: “Think of trust not just as a good to have thing, but something that is vital to your success,” she said.