The world of communication and the way we share news has changed drastically over the last 20 years.
Though radio and television altered the media landscape, the internet has birthed countless media sources, completely reshaping how we receive and share news. From Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to Quora, email, and blogs – sources of communication are ever-evolving in this digital era.
However, constant change breeds uncertainty. At a time when the world is facing huge upheaval, and people are looking for words they can trust, print is standing firm in its place on the communication podium. With an expected global growth rate of 4.8 per cent in 2022, traditional print media is still the most trusted source of news and information for many. Here's why.
Traditional print media publications have earned their trust; newspapers, magazines, and book publishers have established credibility in the eyes of their audience over the course of years. Some outlets, like The Economist (est. 1943) and Time Magazine (est. 1923), have been producing valuable content for decades.
In the current climate of fake news and polarising events, mistrust in digital media is growing. People worldwide see social media as a less credible source of news and are instead turning to traditional outlets that have stood the test of time and earned their trust.
Digital media is fleeting. A piece of news, a social post, or a video can be available one minute and gone the next. Print media, however, is a concrete source of information – once you purchase it, it's yours to hold and keep, and it can't be erased from existence. This solidity builds inherent trust in printed forms of communication.
Similarly, once print media has been published, it can't (easily) be changed. Though this can have its own set of limitations, it results in a greater sense of responsibility for writers, editors, and publishers to check facts and make sure the information is valid and worthwhile before printing. The permanency of ink-on-paper reinforces the idea that the information is trustworthy in readers' minds.
Privacy is a concern with digital media; readers aren't sure what personal information is stored electronically, if their reading habits are analysed, and if their data is secure.
A 2020 survey found privacy is a significant concern for 70 per cent of Australians. The same survey found that at least half of Australians are uncomfortable with digital platforms tracking their location through their mobile or web browser, storing information about what they've done online, and targeting them with advertising based on their online activity.
In comparison, accessing print media in the form of newspapers, magazines, and books requires no sharing of personal information and gives readers complete privacy.
Access to the internet is not universal. People living in rural and remote areas or those living on low incomes may not have internet in their homes, cutting them off from digital news sources. In 2020 there were reportedly 2.5 million Australians with no internet connection because they either could not afford it or could not access it. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on individuals living without the internet, given the drift to digital communication and learning and the inability to access free internet in public places.
Print media is generally affordable and accessible, and it doesn't require special knowledge or skill to use – this builds trust in those who might otherwise have limited access to news and information.
Print media goes beyond the screen; it facilitates connection, which is incredibly powerful given the past two years spent in and out of isolation. Local news continues to be an important part of peoples' daily media intake. A 2021 study by the Canberra News and Media Research Centre found 81 per cent of Australians access local news and information regularly, and newspapers are considered the best destination to read about local matters.
More importantly, the study found local newspapers help generate a sense of community connection, particularly among older news consumers. It reports people who primarily get their news from print (newspaper or magazine) are more likely to say they feel attached to their local community. They also found those who feel connected to the people in their town or city are more likely to be interested in and trust the news.
Though people are increasingly turning to digital media to communicate and access news and information, traditional print media is unique in its ability to capture readers' trust. Print outlets have proven their credibility through longevity and a dedication to quality, and they're a safe and easy-to-access option for all.
In 2022, as the world continues to face uncertainty, print is the trustworthy source of information we need to see us through.