Fake news, filter bubbles and misleading information. We live in a world where the boundaries between reality and speculation are being erased. ...

The biggest challenges with today’s digital media landscape

Fake news, filter bubbles and misleading information. We live in a world where the boundaries between reality and speculation are being erased. What does this development mean for brands and what challenges do we face? Spoon Academy interviews three experienced publishers from Sydsvenskan, SVT and Expressen to get a glimpse of their perspective.            

We ask three questions about the digital media landscape to Pia Rehnquist, editor-in-chief at Sydsvenskan, Klas Granström, managing editor and head of digital at Expressen, as well as Nils Hanson, previous manager and responsible publisher for SVT’s Uppdrag granskning.

Here are their responses.

From an editorial perspective, what’s the greatest challenge with the digital landscape today?

”There are many challenges, but also great opportunities. My take is that society’s challenges are also the publishers’. What I mean by that is without a (somewhat) common understanding of the facts, it becomes difficult to unite around common needs/interests/priorities”, says Pia Rehnquist.

To no longer have information monopoly places new demands on publishers, both in terms of the quality of their work and transparency concerning the method. At its core, this is a good thing but of course also challenging. Parts of the digital world can be rough, unpleasant and sometimes threatening. That’s also a challenge for all the publishers who work in that space.

Another challenge is that there are so many that compete for readers’, viewers’ and listeners’ attention. Some of these attention seekers, such as certain social media and other new platforms, risk placing the audience in a context where it no longer gets an objective view represented.

”Regarding the journalistic mission, the classical truth-seeking, the presentation of an objective, balanced view and showcasing many different opinions, have become even more paramount. And there has arisen a clear need to expose these errors and misconceptions that are spreading, which results in large editorial newsrooms needing to contribute even more to help the audience find the right information while also being source critical,” says Klas.

The best cure to get rid of ”fake news” is obviously true news with relevant content. The problem is that editorial newsrooms don’t make enough efforts to report on such news, claims Nils Hanson.

”You rely on an old and laid back tradition, which means that the description of reality in a best-case scenario is so-so and far too often totally erroneous. Concepts like quality assurance is more or less unknown in the country’s editorial newsrooms. Improvements are needed, which require editors to develop methods to ensure that the facts are correct, and that relevant facts are reproduced,” says Nils Hanson.

What does the development of the media landscape mean for brands? 

According to Klas, credibility is essential. Brands must choose very carefully which platforms and contexts they are seen in. Reach and hit rate become less valuable if you choose non-credible channels.

”Honesty and transparency are extremely important now that both media and the audience have a huge capacity to expose errors and incongruities. The whole ecosystem of media and social media must be part of your monitoring efforts, so that brands know what image is shared.”

Indeed, all brands must be more active and take part of the digital world.

”It’s obvious to be on social media and to handle your brand there in the best way possible. My personal opinion is that brands differ a lot in how good they are at this. Some are exceptionally good, others surprisingly bad”, says Pia.

Social media platforms have got even more influence over traditional media, which is both good and bad. Nils Hanson explains:

“Part of what’s good is that social media are a powerful scrutinising force. The smallest error or flaw in publications is called out by “crowd checkers”, who seem to be at least one million and where there is always at least one person who knows exactly how it is.”

“In case of serious mistakes, the criticism is spread rapidly to traditional media. This new force can be likened to an informal regulatory body that has the power to crack the best brand.” – Nils Hanson.

What’s important to consider when building credibility in a low-trust environment?

Pia Rehnquist considers that internet as such is not a low-trust environment. There are parts on the web that truly lack credibility – but there are also contexts online that are equally credible to anything analogue. It is, however, important to keep track of your brand/company and to monitor what’s going on with it.

”We see since many years ago, our published items/texts as the starting point for a reader dialogue. To us it’s obvious that – via special tools – follow them and see how they are being received. That’s something I think many companies, not just publishers, should consider.”

A powerful alternative is to expose yourself in environments that are safe for brands. Channels where you don’t risk ending up next to hatred, threats or inaccuracies, which are spread by someone with an agenda.

“Recently, there have been major shortcomings with international platform companies and their inability to remove hate and wrong content is obvious. And it makes it dangerous for brands that care about their credibility to be seen there,” says Klas Granström.

Companies that want to be more credible need to be more transparent, claims Nils Hanson.

“An absolute prerequisite is transparency. Everyone says they stand for it, but few, if any, do it in practice. For example, I have never met a representative of a company that welcomed a critical review. However, they should do that because all activities benefit from a critical review.”

“But in that situation, you think more about your own skin and your own reputation as a manager rather than what’s best for the company. The best way to build credibility is, of course, to take your own initiative to express your mistakes and shortcomings. It would not just be brave, I also think it’s a brilliant business idea.”

Is your company ready to accept that challenge?