Distrusting the media: A closer look at “fake news”

July 17, 2019
3 min read

The news is an integral component of everyday interactions for nearly every American. According to Mintel research on US news media, 95% of Americans are news consumers that have visited a news source in the past three months. More than six in 10 have gone to at least three different sources spanning TV, newspapers and online-only publications. However, one-third of adults agree that the news is more important to them now than it was five years ago.

Despite a significant role placed on the importance of staying informed, only one in five adults say they trust the media. Given how ubiquitous news consumption is, the staggeringly high statistic of overwhelming media distrust is primarily driven by fake news.

Fake news in conversation

The rise of the term “fake news” can be traced to one event: the 2016 Election. Analysis of the use of “fake news” on Twitter shows that monthly mentions were in the low four figures in 2016. From October 2016 to November 2016, the use of “fake news” rose 3,306%. The trend has continued over the next three years. Since April 2017, there have only been five months where “fake news” was mentioned fewer than one million times on Twitter in the US.

Source: Infegy/Mintel

Whether it is real or perceived, the conversation surrounding journalism in the US has had a direct impact on the credibility of the mainstream media.

Fake news in action

Discussions of mistrust have made news consumers quick to scrutinize what they see and what they believe. Only one in five adults say that there is only one version of the truth. There may be different sides to every story, but the notion of objectivity appears to be lost on a majority of news consumers.

Real events can also be distorted in order to make it seem as if people have said or done things they may not have. Artificial intelligence (AI) has capabilities that can mimic voices and appearances, literally putting words into people’s mouths. For example, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appeared in a doctored video where her speech was slowed down and altered to make it seem as if she was slurring her words. As technology continues to proliferate, it will be increasingly more difficult to monitor and stop the spread of actual fake news in the digital age.

What we think

News media outlets are in the midst of a credibility nightmare, and establishing trust can be a difficult business in a 24/7 news cycle. In spite of widespread mistrust, news organizations that invest in gaining trust will be rewarded the most in the long run. News consumers look to find their version of the truth in the news they consume, no matter what their affiliations are. Organizations that can demonstrate a consistent sense of integrity will strengthen the dedication of their current followers, and potentially bring in new readers in the process.

People want to support the news organizations they believe in. For example, more than one-quarter of paying news subscribers say they pay extra to support a particular news organization. Loyalty is hard to achieve in the news industry, but once it’s established, no amount of “fake news” can tear it down.

John Poelking
John Poelking

John Poelking is a Gaming Analyst at Mintel. His passion for live entertainment, movies, television, video games, technology and travel informs his sector knowledge.

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