The media is no longer the message

An interesting survey by eMarketer, via WebProNews:

Stop. Don’t look too hard at the table. This survey is fundamentally flawed.

The flaw is simple, and it reflects an old mode of thinking: These days the media is not the message.

For example there are over 200 million blogs (they have stopped counting), and to rate them all together is patently unfair. You cannot compare, say, Bernard Hickey’s with The Bad Blog (which is what I found when I googled “bad blog”, and which is actually not that bad).

To put it another way, on interest rate matters the blog is more trusted than, say, TV1 Business News. However on general business or current events news, TV1 would be better.

Meanwhile Bernard and the rest of the team’s blog is less trusted, by me, than the Wall Street Journal – a publication that is a newspaper, has a online news site, offers video, does product comparisons and has blogging.

How do we measure all of this that? How do we compare the WSJ video with their print edition? How do we compare Fox TV news with their internet site with their internet delivered video?

The answer is that we don’t, as we know that increasingly the media type irrelevant and the publisher’s brand is everything. We seek our trusted providers, and we are getting pretty agnostic about where we find them:

  • If we are watching TV then we know that the BBC has a better global perspective than Fox News – unless we are right wing and living in the USA.
  • If we are online then the NYTimes is better than the Waikato Times – unless we live in Waikato and want the latest Hamilton news.
  • If we are reading about something esoteric then we know to search the internet, and that Wikiedia or a blog is probably going to have the best answer.

We assess credibility very quickly. We look for the publisher (e.g. Bloggers that write for newspapers have more credibility), we assess the credibility of the writer by looking at the production or site design, checking the publisher or writer background (about 2.2% of the traffic here checks my bio), see who refers to the that source, then look for well-crafted writing and video solid references and so on. We are often not really aware of how we do it, but we can do all of this in less than, say, 5 seconds.

It used to be that we looked for beautiful people to deliver news that we trust, but Fox news in particular has made this increasingly irrelevant – as we have come to realise that beauty is not correlated with intelligence or trustworthiness.*

We have already made decisions for older media – The Dominion Post and TVNZ news have a rich heritage, and so we tend to trust them, while a new magazine like Idealog will need to earn our trust through excellent writing, distribution and product design. However the older media can lose our trust, and when it goes, as it has for me and most TV news, it is very hard to earn back.

So how should the survey have been written? Here is one possibility. It’s not ideal but I feel it is a better way to ask the question. The audience is of course biased – and it will be interesting to see how biased.

Published by Lance Wiggs


6 replies on “The media is no longer the message”

  1. What does the asterisk after trustworthiness.* refer to?

    Did the small print get cut off?

    Ironic that in a post about assessing credibility you should make such a mistake!


  2. Where did you hear it was just 900k. I heard it would be at least 5 million, plus take a while to do. Normally the networks will share that cost, as interference is normal with that sort of technology, however it appears vodafone isn’t willing to pay a cent, to install filters. Also installing filters on telecoms XT network will affect it’s performance. I have heard that a lot of the problem is vodafone, as they have pushed their network too far, without proper investment. If they were using their hardware the way it was designed, and weren’t pushing it past the maximum, they probably wouldn’t have the issue.
    I have a another vodafone story, and that is with Vodafone wanting to install a cell tower in an area that telecom has previous abandoned after public pressure. Apparently vodafone are going to go ahead anyway, even though the public have said they don’t want a tower next door.


  3. Rob – the $900k is $900 x $1000 cells, and the new news in this morning’s NBR article was that this was for the filters only – labour is extra. Regardless, $900,00 or $5m is still chump change in this context.

    Your comment though is in the wrong lace for some reason – I will try to move it.


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