UCLan academic underlines link between trust & business bottom line

UCLan journalism lecturer Dr Francois Nel has stepped onto the world stage to help answer one of the industry’s most pressing questions: Do levels of trust in journalism impact on the business bottom line?

The answer is ‘Yes’, according to François and his research partner Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis of the University of Oxford.

The duo was recently asked to take on the iconic World Press Trends report published annually since 1989 by WAN-IFRA, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

“When we were asked to take over the study, the WAN-IFRA team challenged us to deliver insights beyond the usual market trends,” recalls François, who is a Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCLan.

“That’s when we decided to look at the relationship between the Edelman Trust Index and other data we had collected about news media organisations’ performance in terms of print and digital revenues, circulations, readership and more.”


Research findings

The statistical analysis was startling: there’s a very strong relationship between trust and the business bottom line.

“Our analysis shows there is a significant positive relationship between trust and digital and print audience numbers, as well as income from digital and print advertising and circulation sales.”, said François, who presented the headline findings at the 70th World News Publishers Congress in Portugal this summer.

Commenting on the study,  WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyrègne said: “For the press, securing a trusted relationship with its audience is not only an economic imperative but also a social and democratic obligation. 

“This year’s World Press Trends analysis shows that a lack of trust can cost publishers where it hurts most – with their audiences and advertisers, therefore impacting revenues.

“And, perhaps more profoundly, it is potentially costing them a central and pivotal role in their communities and society at large.”

François is aware that these research findings invite many further questions about the nature of trust, including its relationship to truth.

“In an era of ‘fake news’, it’s obvious that being trusted doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re telling the truth. For example, lots of people trust Donald Trump, albeit that he has been found to frequently tell lies.

“I look forward to discussing this and more with third-year students who choose to take the ‘Future Media’ module, as well as those postgraduates taking ‘Journalism Innovation’ on the newly re-validated MA Journalism course.”