Is “fake news” a blessing in disguise?
You may have seen a headline on the Guardian’s website recently that read: “Just one in four Britons trust news on social media”. While this is a shocking percentage, it’s not entirely surprising.
Social media, if used correctly and responsibly, can be a fantastic way of getting your message across. It not only helps spread news globally at a rapid pace, it also brings more awareness to tragedies and helps people speak out about injustices. Also, consumers on social media tend to trust each other, not big brands.
However, fake news - propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media (as defined by Wikipedia) - is a big problem. Facebook, Google, and Twitter will probably flush out false political ads over time, but they will never be able to stop fake news.
Misinformation is flooding social media at an alarming rate and, because of this, the tides appear to be turning in favour of more trusted sources. There is a clear appetite for “premium news” and “thoughtful commentary”, which is helping newspapers, which have been struggling for some time, to attract more digital readers and advertisers.
The Guardian article goes on to say that social media companies are “just experiencing what some of their more traditional rivals experienced at their launch.”
And it’s true. If we look back at the emergence of any new technology, panic quickly ensues. When the printing press became available 500 years ago for example, people were concerned that there was too much social information becoming available.
When social media first started, the main concern was how news was being spread and consumed and people liked how news was arriving, how news agendas were coming from the bottom up. Now people not only want their news fast, they want to know that what they are reading has been properly researched and verified.
All of this can only be a good thing for the PR industry. We must take full advantage of the opportunities to build credibility for our clients through effective content that is reliable and trustworthy.