Trust Is The New Black

  • by , Featured Contributor, October 22, 2009
Trust is the new black. I wish that I could claim credit for coining that phrase, but it was Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Earlier this week, Craig penned an opinion piece in The Huffington Post titled "A Nerd's Take on the Future of News Media." 

In the piece, Craig makes the point that news media has lost its way, having squandered the trust of its consumers and having done a poor job "curating" news. He suggests that news media companies can build successful futures if they focus on solving those two problems. With respect to trust, here is what he said and how he used his new phrase: "Trust is the new black, as I like to say. The great opportunity for news organizations is to constructively demonstrate trustworthy reporting, and to visibly do so." (Boldface type in original)

I am not going to use this column to debate whether or not news media have lost the public trust and whether or not their future survival is dependent on recapturing it. I leave those issues for Craig and others, though I do happen to agree with him. Rather, I am quite taken by his noting that "trust is the new black." I believe that he is on to something very fundamental with that statement.



Today, more people can have more relationships -- personal, business, casual, formal, fleeting, long-term -- with more people more often than ever before in history. And, with the rise of social media, the possibilities for more relationships are growing fast and exponentially. This phenomenon is particularly challenging for media, entertainment and information companies to deal with, and it is turning marketers' and advertisers' worlds absolutely upside-down.

When consumers have so many different kinds of relationships with so many different people and companies and products and services and ideas, how can any, or many, of them stand out? How can media companies or marketers establish meaningful visibility, let alone usage loyalty, in this ever-entangling clutter? There is only one answer now: trust.

Trust is the new black. It is too hard for most people to truly distinguish the complex and too-subtle differences of so many tangible and intangible products and services. Consumers need something else. That something else is trust. Trust is finite. Trust is generally based on experience and time. Trust is quite personal. A person's trust is something that he or she controls. While it can be won and lost, it cannot be forced or taken or imposed by recipients.

Trust is why brands like Zappos and Apple are winning. Lack of trust is why so many U.S. automotive companies are failing. Craig might call himself an amateur when it comes to news media punditry (he does), but he's certainly not. He's right. Trust is the new black. What do you think?

7 comments about "Trust Is The New Black".
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  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, October 22, 2009 at 4:19 p.m.

    US auto companies are not failing because of trust, they are failing because they have, on balance, mediocre product offerings. There are exceptions on the product side: the Camaro and the Challenger are exceptions, as is the Corvette, except for the interior, which is still awful. I will have to say, I rented a Camry and a Malibu in back-to-back weeks and the Malibu was a much better vehicle. Not as good as my Aston Martin perhaps, but still surprising.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 22, 2009 at 5:05 p.m.

    I trust you are right. One of the first rules I learned many a moon ago when presenting a service to automotive dealers was "People buy from people who they like and trust" (one of the people laws). There also needs to be a massive increase in publishing fact finders - paid well with disclosure. The ol' trust but verify (saying dates back to the ancients as in thousands of years ago not the Regan 1980's ancients who were not trust worthy) rings as true then as now.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, October 22, 2009 at 5:10 p.m.

    Stanford ... very good point about product mediocrity being a big part of the US automakers' problems. However, I do think that their poor product history lost them the trust of most consumers to the point that even when they deliver very good products, they don't have the trust to get credit for them or the trust to get consumers to take any more chances with them.

  4. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, October 22, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.

    "Trust is the new black," is, to me, opague and meaningless. It's not nearly as amusing as your rhetorical: "There is only one answer now: trust," which brought to mind an image of Burt Lahr in lion costume, saying: "Courage."

    Did anyone ever 'trust' mainstream media? Or, 'media.' There is something insubstantial about the very idea of "media." It like smell of melting tar on a hot summer's day near the shore. It's not particularly pleasant, but it recalls things like the beach and pavements too hot to cross in your bare feet. A whiff of something complex and dependent on the beholder and his unique experience. It can't be crafted. It either is, or it ain't.

    The disconnect today between the media and its audience is not about 'trust' but about pupose and intent. We are too smart today. We grow up knowing we are being had. No part of the experience in accidental. It is all carefully crafted to achieve a specific objective that involves me, but is not about me. I am meaningful, if my experience of the content carried on the medium prompts me to act in a specific way. The medium fails if I act in some other way. If the media operator is smart enough to attract and hold enough animals of the desired type (i.e. the type that respond predicticably when prodded) then the medium is trusted by all parties.

    Digital media is the darling now because of hos precisely it can cull the herd. It is no longer a blunt instrument, but a precision laser scalpel able to slice the audience into the finest cuts, trimmed, no fat, shrink wrapped and properly labeled.

    Media is now about precision "stimulus/response." The "grown up child" crossing the asphalt street on a hot day shore, will only smell the melting tar, and look up for the crossing signal.

    Media no longer carries any surprises, it just generates suspicion. It doesn't offers any honest experience. It doesn't trust us, so why should we trust it? It's the 'free download' that is accessible three screens later behind a "must? join/buy/signup button. It's the Google Help center sans human help. It's not the honest smell of hot tar on blacktop street, but aerosol cinnamon spray near the Cinnabon stand at the airport.

  5. Greg Strauss from river town newspaper group, October 22, 2009 at 5:32 p.m.

    Are we to trust the offerings on Craigslist? Quite a bit of newspaper bashing online (seems to be getting trendy) but people still turn to the local paper, trust the local paper to provide "local" stories with journalistic integrity. I am all for continuing to provide news online, as well as in print, but there is a reason why sites such as Snopes exist. Online is more ripe for an Orson Welle's War of the Worlds scenario than any other medium.

  6. Ned Newhouse from, October 22, 2009 at 6:50 p.m.

    35 years ago when I started reading NY newspapers and watching Huntley and Brinkley on NBC I never thought that they had an agenda, where not pushing some left viewpoint or sensationalizing news content. I did trust them. It very well maybe that I was young and naive, but also we did not have 47,000 opinions to sift through with all of today's outlets. 47,000 opinions of today challenged the old guard. It wasnt that the news lost our trust, it was the 47,000 opinions created insecurity in our perceptions of trust. Call it competition for mindshare. But that is good, call it personal checks and balances.

    I think this debate will rage on forever when 47,000 people are talking at the same time. So what is trust, trust is who YOU believe can deliver and present news objectively. And to 300 million Americans we will be fractured in which spin we buy into.

    As in everyone of these debates, quality content along with distribution continues to win in the broad sense. Broadcast TV, cable news TV outlets, AP and city newspapers (the ones that survive with new rev or reorg edit talent) are going to continue to win due to distribution.

    The key to any of these outlets' is a top to bottom down culture of journalistic integrity, objectivity and autonomy. Give me faith that you can be left, middle or and right when you think that is the reality. That exact culture to me is the future of trust for the "news media" to be black.

    I think America is already on this path, there are more independents (36%) in this country than there are Republicans or Democrats. That says to me that people are using their brain for who they believe is their black.

  7. Christel Van der boom from Edelman, October 29, 2009 at 8:42 p.m.

    I work in public relations and for me building trust is always a key objective when counseling clients on their communications strategies. The company I work for, Edelman, conducts research on the topic of trust. I thought you might find it interesting - a report is available on the web:

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