What is the trust market?
There is a reason why media companies are still referred to as “the press.” For a long, long time the printing machine was the core technology that provided a comfortable competitive edge. The ability to produce a million copies overnight and distribute them before breakfast offered a solid foundation for making money.
Enter the “trust market”. Trust, not information, is the scarce resource in today’s world. Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose. And it is a core element of journalism, few other professions are so dependent on trust.
But it is not just a requirement, it is also an enormous underserved market. Media companies will learn that it is trust, not SEO, branding, or content farming that’s the road to success. And that road points right to data journalism.
There is even proof of concept, in media companies that anticipated the shift from text to data early on. Just read how Thomson has divested from newspapers and moved into business information. Bloomberg is a data success story, too – with the extra twist of understanding that value lies not only in the content, it lies in the way it is served, including the physical means of delivery. So, Bloomberg provided sleek terminals on top of its information feeds, “packaging” content on a human level: If you are sitting in a trading room in front of a two-monitor Bloomberg terminal, it’s visible to everyone that you have a “Porsche” in front of you (and probably another one down in the parking space).
Thomson and Bloomberg are billion-dollar companies. Apple is a multi-billion dollar company. But the trust market is even bigger. The maximum size of money moved by trust is the combined value of all advertising, PR and the millions of hours people spend searching for a reliable piece of information or good advice on what product they should get. In other words: It’s huge, and no one who is just in for a quick dollar can compete. If media companies find a winning combination of data and good stories to fulfill that need, they will be vaulted out of a dying market defined by technology (printing presses, radio stations or satellites) and into the “trust market.”
In a multiplaform world, “trust” is the defining attribute that moves goods and services. Most marketing and advertising can’t be trusted: The system behind it does not allow telling buyers if the newest camera from a company is actually any good. Advertising will always try to create a good impression for a product and service, but eventually people learn that it’s not the looks of a product that makes it valuable, but its day-to-day usability.
The trust market is still up for grabs. Most media players are still competing in the “attention market.” There, the thinking goes, you only need to grab someone’s attention to feed them money-earning ads. AOL’s recent Huffington Post acquisition is a sign of such backward thinking, as AOL is hoping to sell a massive audience to a bunch of hungry advertisers.
Such focus on numbers makes the media industry impervious to other metrics. Such as the user experience, for instance. Take Amazon. Ten years ago, the company was derided as a doomed experiment. But a consistent focus on service and user experience, starting from personalized shopping to a consistent focus on timely delivery and a trust in their customers made them market leaders in less than a decade. Where else do they resend your order when you simply say you haven’t received it?