Media Trust in a Digital World

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by Thomas Osburg and Stephanie Heinecke

In today’s world, trust becomes a phenomenon, a new paradigm, and maybe a buzzword. A lot of people talk about it, in business, NGO’s media, and govern- ment. Trust, as often said, is the new glue, holding together societies and the way we live and work. Especially in times when technology and digitalization become more and more important, a closer look is needed on what role trust will play. Digitalization and technologies can offer tremendous help and new opportunities for societies and people and solve problems in areas like health, education, inclusion, and environment—but also lead to new challenges like job security or responsibility of robots.

This book was a major undertaking at international levels, looking at concepts and question of trust in communication beyond traditional thinking. It is about Digital Worlds and New Technologies, but actually goes deeper. We have a lot of contributions highlighting challenges with trust in Digital Worlds that are often overlooked and ignored. We look at linguistic analysis and communication changes in general. We look at industries like the financial industry, or sectors like social entrepreneurship. And we look at concepts like branding, where brand trust is a common phenomenon to be successful.

We know that in today’s world, trust is partially declining and that it plays a different role than what it used to. Artificial intelligence and computer algorithms will add to a level of complexity that often goes beyond the understanding by most people. Trust, as we know from the sociologist perspective, often is a mechanism to reduce that complexity. If we do not understand anymore what computers and machines decide, how can we build trust in so-called Smart Societies? We need to look at trust in urban living and future mobility spaces, as this impacts how we live and work together in the future. And we need to look at new competencies that are needed and how to build up that level of trusted competencies.

The opening chapter “The Game of Trust” from Stephanie Heinecke gives an overview of current challenges in the media system. Three key developments will be reflected: First, the topic of mediatization and how the media logic has gained influence on all areas of life; second, the question of truth and trust in journalism, and finally, the need for sustainable strategies and business models in our times of shifting power between traditional market participants and new competitors. All three developments are interconnected and will shape the trust in our future media system to a huge extend.

In his contribution about “Building Trust in Digital Worlds,” Thomas Osburg focuses on the critical role; trust will play in new Digital Worlds. Current discus- sions are centered around possibilities and threats of technologies, with little focus on how the digital solutions are ultimately accepted by the users and citizens. And in order to be accepted, a new level of trust needs to be there. Trusting the unknown becomes a major challenge, especially in times of declining Institutional Trust. Companies remain, more than ever before, responsible for their impacts on society. And this responsibility goes far beyond concepts titled “Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR).”

Jonas Bedford-Strohm analyzes the “Socio-Historical Contexts of Anti- Institutionalist Tendencies in Digital Media Transformation.” Digital transforma- tion is not only a matter of technology, but comes along with processes of social change and public debate. This chapter will identify and discuss five key factors for public trust: participation, information, consent, inclusion, and accountability.

“The Financial Value of Trust in the Media Business” is then examined by Harald Watzek. Trust is not a “nice-to-have” attribute for media companies, but is a strong driver of success with financial implications. Market players have to find the adequate strategy and ask themselves whether they better act as a price leader, a quality leader, or a speed leader.

Zhanna Belyaeva will focus on the responsibility of companies in her contri- bution about “Value CoCreation and CSR through Media Lenses.” The purpose of her chapter is to examine the development of competences that force stronger trust and responsibility in Western (German) and Eastern (Russia) cultures. Trust, as a foundation for communication, embraces a variety of cross-functional and multi- disciplinary concepts and goes beyond marketing theory aiming to advance both internal and external multistakeholder dialogue.

The contribution on “Communication and Trust: A Linguistic Analysis” by Anna-Maria Meck specifically looks at how exactly trust and communication are intertwined: Is it the voice or the content that are more trust building? And how does this change in times of Distributed Trust where Individual Trust is rising while Institutional Trust is declining?

“Shifts in Communication and Ego-Identity in Digital World” are then examined by Anke Werani. First, a brief overview of psycholinguistic aspects focusing on communication and the change of communication skills is given. Communication theories are presented, and the term space of communication is described. Finally, it is examined how communication is influenced by the use of social media and identity-constructing processes.

Following holistic and strategic concepts of trust, Part II of the book will then shift the focus to journalism and social media.

Influencer is an integral part of today’s marketing strategies for young target groups. But to what end? “From Trusted Brand to Trusted Friend”: Julia Kirn explains the specific relationship between influencers and their followers and shows some important factors in order to gain the most from this marketing approach: a transfer of credibility and trust.

Credibility is also a key topic for Thomas Mrazek, who points out the impor- tance of “Truth and Trust in Journalism.” Which strategies can publishers and journalists use in times of discussions about fake news and distorted media cov- erage? Transparency is key in order to earn back the trust of recipients.

Jessica Kunert discusses a technological aspect of today’s journalism: “The Impact of Automation of Content Distribution and Content Creation in the Newsroom” challenges traditional newsrooms. This chapter gives insights on news personalization and automated journalism. Will machines take over? And how do the journalists and the recipients react?

Local journalism is a difficile area for trust: The audience knows best what is going on in their neighborhood. If local journalists do not keep in mind the special circumstances of news creation, credibility will be destroyed very quickly. Uwe Brueckner discusses the key aspects on how local TV can make the most of this situation and rise “Like the Phoenix from the Pixel.”

Usually, algorithms find recommendations by analyzing past behavior. However, this past-oriented approach has not been uncriticized as it leads to a so-called filter bubble. The contribution “The Filter Bubble in Social Media Communication” by Katharina Klug and Charlotte Strang sheds light to the filter bubble focusing on users’ perception and reaction. Communication has received much attention over the last two decades with the increasing use of social media. Taken together, the findings of the authors highlight the change in communication processes influenced by social media.

Online media has effects on our social behavior. Especially kids and teens often find themselves in communicative situations their parents have no access to—or just do not understand. Uwe Leest warns of the loss of control and explains how “Cyberbullying endangers our society.”

Part III of the book widens the focus from media to core competencies and whole market developments. Artificial intelligence (AI) touches our lives every day. For most online actions, an AI algorithm has sorted out what it considers to be relevant for us. By the time you receive your search results in a Google, the advertising spaces on the results page have been auctioned by algorithms. This is based on your surfing habits stored in commercial databases, sociodemographic information collected from your social network profiles, and many other resources. Johannes Bruhn and Matthias Anderer look at the challenges of “Implementing Artificial Intelligence in Organizations and the special role of trust in this process.”

Natalie Buciek and Philipp Sandner focus on “The Blockchain Technology in the Media Sector.” What are smart contracts and how can a distributed ledger technology change the interdependencies in the media ecosystem? The authors give an overview on some key developments.

What competencies will we need in a Digital World? Stephanie Heinecke, Maria Berg, and Ludwig Hinkofer discuss the road we have come from conceptions of media competence to digital competence and give an outlook on the skills not only our children might need in the future. “Trust me if you can”: People will only feel confident with digital tools when they are equipped with corresponding knowledge. A very special topic is introduced by Yuliya Aray and Anastasia A. Petrova-Savchenko. Their contribution about “Creating Societal Trust through Communication to Legitimize Social Entrepreneurship in Russia” is a role-model concept. Social entrepreneurs who set themselves both social and economic goals are the actors who may try to create and develop new business models in the areas of state and market failures. Trust plays a crucial role in this concept. People mostly judge social entrepreneurs by their intentions instead of judging by the social effects brought by their entrepreneurial activities. This is a very relevant challenge, as social entrepreneurs are usually characterized by a higher level of trust that comes

from the different goals they have in finding solutions for society.
Concluding on the sector of social entrepreneurship and to understand how social enterprises use digital tools to market their offering to digitally connected stakeholders, Chinnoy Bandyopadhyay and Subhasis Ray interacted with four Indian social entrepreneurs described in their contribution “Digital Marketing and Communication for Social Enterprises.” Their study presented here reveals that social enterprises use innovative ways such as using an app to maintain trans- parency (and to create trust) about their offering and operations, showcasing their social impact, and offering through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their own Web sites. WhatsApp videos featuring their innovative offering also go viral and let people know about these organizations. The results of the authors highlight that the digital marketing tools are more suitable for social enterprises to create trust in the face of challenges such as lack of resources, absence of well-established distribution or supply chain setup, and cumbersome to track and target customers in offline mode.

The editors sincerely hope that you enjoy this book as much as we did when bringing all these top-level authors together. We would like to thank them for their professional insight into very specific topics of Media and Communication Trust in Digital Worlds.

Munich, Germany

Prof. Dr. Thomas Osburg & Prof. Dr. Stephanie Heinecke

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