Commentary

"Fake News" Possible Benefit

“Fake news” has actually benefited the media, consumers and businesses alike, says Karla Jo Helms, founder and CEO of JoTo PR, proposing a contrarian theory.

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Even though daily newspaper publishers have watched their weekday circulation plummet from 62 million to an estimated 35 million over a span of 26 years, 93% of adults in the U.S. have turned to getting their news online through mobile devices or desktops. This insatiable demand for news and information has led to a consumer-driven economy, where consumers are more informed and are running the show, says the report.

“Fake news” accusations appear to have created a “credibility crisis” and impacted public trust in the media,  Helms says, “but we’ve seen an increase in the number of media outlets carrying news to the public, and the amount of content the media is putting out.” Even The New York Times is trying to figure out how to handle this insane demand for information, says the report, by putting out 230 articles a day, 365 days a year.

Reuters reports that online news services have recently experienced record growth; from November 2016 to June 2017:

  • ·      The New York Times added more than 500,000 digital subscribers; 
  • ·      The New Yorker added 250,000 and 
  • ·      The Wall Street Journal added 200,000
  • ·      U.S. online news payments jumped from 9% to 16% between 2016 and 2017
  • ·      Donations have tripled in the last year. 

While 91% of journalists believe the public trusts them less than they did three years ago, most journalists have affirmed their commitment to accuracy. 92% state that “being right is more important than being first.” 

“The reality is that the shifting media landscape now favors the immediacy and accessibility of online reporting,” said Helms. “If anything, the ‘fake news’ phenomenon has created a greater appreciation for journalism that exhibits integrity, objectivity and accuracy. Media outlets that have adapted to meet consumer expectations are finding that it’s possible to thrive in today’s market, and that a growing number of people are willing to pay for quality reporting.”

Helms acknowledges that social media has had a profound impact on the way news is consumed today, says the report, making it easier to share journalistic content with a global audience, but also facilitating the spread of misinformation. In the United States, 69% of adults use at least one social media site and 51% rely on social media for news, yet only 20% feel social media does a good job of helping users separate fact from fiction.

Helms continues that this hasn’t caused people not to read the news, it has caused them to be even more voracious on their news perusals and fact-checking. For example, consumers are spending upwards of five hours a day online on mobile devices, 92% of that online viewing done in apps for social media, news, entertainment, etc.  And 57% of the business-to-business “buying process” begins online, before anyone contacts a company, searching up to twelve sources before coming to that “57th” informed decision. 

Finally, Helms notes that the proliferation of fake news has boosted media’s demand for “relevant, authoritative and accurate content,” which is good news for businesses that can provide it. “Companies that distinguish themselves as a reliable source of factual, newsworthy information can earn valuable media coverage,” she explained. “Not only does this publicity and PR represent a significant cost savings over advertising, but consumers tend to regard stories published by traditional media outlets as more credible than paid ads, marketing materials or social media posts. Savvy business owners can use this opportunity to challenge fake news and create a competitive advantage.” concludes Helms. 

 

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