Lai Ee Na
Mar 19, 2010

Consumers in Asia are losing trust in media

Consumers in Asia may once have been largely credulous, but scepticsm is growing. Trust in media is slipping, particularly in India and Japan.

Consumers Trust
Consumers Trust
The good news for media owners in Asia is that the region’s consumers have considerably more trust in media than the global average - 57 per cent against 45 per cent, according to a recent survey from Edelman. But before they congratulate themselves too much, these owners need to be made aware of one important trend: this trust is slipping, particularly in India and Japan.

In India, for example, while the media industry is booming, the fierce battle for advertising revenue has eroded media credibility. “There have been well-documented cases of political parties and candidates bribing the media, primarily in print,” says Edelman’s Asia-Pacific president, Alan VanderMolen.

Edelman found that overall trust in media had dropped seven percentage points year on year in India, from 65 per cent to 58 per cent. It is to some extent a self-inflected decline, says VanderMolen, with industry marketing initiatives helping to drive trust down. He points to the example of Times Private Treaties, through which the media company - in this case Bennett, Coleman & Co, which publishes The Times of India - owns shares in the advertisers in exchange for favourable coverage.

Kavita Lakhani, LINOpinion’s president, agrees: “In the last three years, the number of 24-hour news channels has quadrupled. The industry has mushroomed into a hyper-competitive market. The result has been some innovation, but also a noticeable drop in overall quality.”

However, Shashi Sinha, CEO Lodestar UM argues that newspapers in particular are still a well-trusted source of information. “Even today, Indians attribute a lot of credence to newspapers which are actually seen as the true bearers of news. In fact, newspapers in India have a lot more credibility than in most parts of the world.”

Similarly in Japan, despite the overall drop in trust, newspapers are still the leading source of credible information - 55 per cent in the Edelman survey, second only to Singapore - led by what VanderMolen, calls “the hard-core morning newspaper market” for business and political news.

“The quality of news journalism is very high,” he says. “The Japanese tend to live with the print media because of the long hours they spend commuting.”

However, Jonny Shaw, partner of Naked Communications, says that while newspapers are still a powerful medium among the older population, the 20- to 40-somethings prefer viewing content on smartphones, and traditional media has been slow to take on social media. This, he says, is reflected in the agency model in Japan.

“Traditional media and agency businesses are in freefall,” he says. “They are seen to be badly run and out of touch. Information was very much controlled by a few companies but with the new social media, their control has been declining. When they are exposed to new challenges, all traditional channels don’t know how to respond.”

Across the region, traditional media platforms such as television news, radio and print are still able to count on the consumer’s trust, and at levels well above that of new media, such as search engines, social networking sites, corporate websites and blogs. However, this scenario differs greatly from market to market.

In India, for example, search engines are seen as more credible than any traditional media source, something that is also true for Indonesia. In contrast, digital media in Japan is way behind its traditional rivals when it comes to trust. In fact, outside of China, Japan has the lowest levels of trust in digital media, according to Edelman.

Shaw, however, argues that digital media in Japan is still a better option for marketers. “New media’s cost performance is better [than traditional media]. I’d spend everything on digital media. Spend money where you get the most return for your investment,” he says.

For VanderMolen, marketing strategies that incorporate digital media will be the way forward. “The days of communicating a message are numbered,” he says. “Companies are now looking at creating real-time conversations with their audiences, with the brands’ own built content, to build relationships.”

Trust barometer findings in 2010

> The research found that trust in government was on the rise across APAC, except in Australia where it dropped 15 per cent between 2009 and 2010 under PM Kevin Rudd.

> Both globally and in Asia, trust in all media has dropped two percentage points from last year

Technology was the most trusted industry sector in the survey (at 82 per cent), with entertainment languishing at the bottom (just 52 per cent).

> Residents of APAC are more inclined to trust television news coverage than their global counterparts (48 per cent as opposed to 38 per cent).

This article was originally published in the 11 March 2010 issue of Media.

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