A recent article in the SMH (16-03-2010) reports on a survey conducted to determine the comparative trust level that Australians have between information delivered via traditional media and digital media.

According to Peter Lewis, Essential Research’s director (the source of the survey), the results demonstrate that ‘consumers sought a distinction between news and opinion, which was more prevalent in newspapers than online’. He goes on to say that:

It gives some encouragement to professional journalists that there is in the public’s mind a difference between news and opinion, and as long as that separation remains in the public’s eyes, there’s always going to be a place for quality journalists…

FORM OF MEDIA CONSUME WEEKLY(%) TRUST(%)
Newspapers 72 62
News Websites 62 49
Blogs 28 20
ABC TV 58 70
ABC Radio 38 62
ABC Talkback 28 45
Commercial TV 87 64
Commercial Radio 59 54
Commercial Talkback 37 38
Source: Essential Research

Comforting news for the SMH and for the journalist writing up the story but a tad short-sighted and taking, perhaps, a flying leap from the results to a conclusion. It’s not that I discount the statement that there will always be a place for quality journalism – online or off – but it seems unlikely that the perception of where to find quality writing will be locked into the traditional world of print rather than the digital world. You may also, if you’re a regular reader of the paper version of the SMH,  find the distinction between ‘news and opinion’ a bit blurred – it’s choking with opinion pieces and has no more ‘news’ pieces than I suspect you’d find online.

The poll concentrates, of course, on people’s current perceptions rather than what the medium actually delivers in terms of trustworthy information. Those perceptions are changing very rapidly as we know from statistics showing that more and more people are turning to digital sources to access news and information – something that media corporations are acutely aware of as their subscriptions for traditional publications continue to plummet whilst they struggle to find a viable online and digital business model to deliver their services and publications.

I wouldn’t, if I were a working journalist or newspaper proprietor, take much comfort from these results or stop working on my digital strategy. Consumer trust in digital delivery of information will continue to grow and the shift towards digital platforms will be relentless.

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