Il Sole 24 Ore has been named the Most-Trusted Italian Newspaper by the Reuters Institute for several years. Because of the high level of specialisation of its journalists, trust has always been one of the media company’s key strengths. Partnering with The Trust Project gives the company better support and structure in continuing that standard.
“Joining The Trust Project was a good occasion to show our readers our commitment and our thanks also,” Bernabo said. “It was a chance for our newsroom to continue evolving and organising our workflow to meet this commitment. It was also a great way for newsrooms to understand that journalism today is a conversation — not a lecture — and that it is essential to undergo a cultural shift to handle the horizontal dimension of information.”
Bernabo wanted to join the project because it represents an opportunity to systemise — “even institutionalise” — how information is built in a newsroom. After some problematic management issues a few years ago, it seemed especially important to set the current newsroom apart from those issues and focus on a trusted brand for the public.
Trust as a company-wide protocol
In addition to involvement from the newsroom, Il Sole 24 Ore’s IT department has been involved with developing the Trust Indicators on the Web site. Marketing and the advertorial department are also part of the endeavor. The media company has a team in New York City that focuses on AI projects, which is also helpful in the project’s implementation and helping change the mindset companywide.
“The media industry, in the world for some years and recently also in Italy, is gradually moving from an advertising model to a subscription-based model,” he said. “The latter model, however, not only needs to challenge the idea that on the Internet, information is free — a concept that has a particular strength in Italy — but also needs to be able to find breathing space in an ecosystem where the quality of available information-entertainment is huge. Indeed, it is exactly the rise of the numerous digital players (from music to cinema) that has helped to build an awareness that quality content must be paid for.
“Thus it becomes essential to build an offer that is not only technologically advanced, but that fundamentally relies on a trust relationship with the reader. Trust is the key element that makes the reader subscribe to information. Unfortunately, in the last few decades, trust in media has progressively fallen, with mainstream media considered to be part of a system of power — and, hence, delegitimised.
Building trust involves many steps, Bernabo said:
Establishing a bilateral relationship with users.
Opening up newsrooms to make the processes transparent.
Being humble enough to admit mistakes.
Involving readers in the process of building information.
“All of this needs to happen through a cultural shift taking place fundamentally within newsrooms,” he said. “But certificate organisations and shared practices such as The Trust Project can play a key role in pushing this shift forward.”
Creating standards of measurement
Il Sole 24 Ore measures trust using a variety of tools:
An analysis of reader comments on Web sites and social media, to which staff engages and replies.
E-mails to readers to continue interaction and collect reader remarks.
Live discussions and videos to discuss initiatives.
Research studies and surveys of readers, as well as following those by international institutes.
One-to-one interactions are key to the company’s trust objectives, Bernabo said.
“We are always engaged in improving the internal process of constant checks through the process to ensure the highest quality before publication,” he said. “We are well defining the responsibility to check the correspondence between the contents of each article and The Trust Project’s indicators. We are also improving sharing the trust indicators with the advertising team to ensure their content conforms to the new rules. This is definitely something not ordinary in Italy.”
This case study originally appeared in the INMA report, How News Brands Are Rebuilding Trust. INMA will feature a members-only Webinar with the founder of The Trust Project on Wednesday, February 24. Sign up here.