Hearing is believing – how fostering a trusted news brand is critical in the time of fake news

The battle to be first often seems to overtake the battle to be correct in the fast-moving times we find ourselves in. We’re all bombarded with a myriad of articles every day from a hundred different sources, all vying for that ever-important click. It has also become more and more difficult to identify what is accurate and what is not. So much so, the official government coronavirus website even contains a dedicated “fake news” section which points out false articles or reports that have been circulated and identified as fake.

Media brands have spent years building their reputations in a variety of different ways. Whether it be the most entertaining, the biggest stars or the most current information, the underlying factor in all of this has now come to the fore – the most trusted.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, traditional media remains the most trusted source for news and information worldwide. In addition to that, 78% of South Africans surveyed believe that brands should stop advertising on any platform that “fails to prevent the spread of fake news and false information”.

Radio has had systems put in place over the years to assist in the self-regulation of what it delivers to its audience. From the license conditions prescribed by ICASA, to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), the Press Ombudsman and the Advertising Regulatory Board, there are several watchdogs in place to protect the integrity of the information as well as who conveys it. These have all served the industry exceptionally well, allowing the medium to develop within these frameworks into a lasting and reliable source of information and entertainment (for free!).

Radio has always had the responsibility to inform, and with the latest BRC RAM data indicating a 92% weekly reach (meaning 37,5 million South Africans listen to radio anytime in the week), the great power is indeed handed to the medium with the understanding of the great responsibility it has. News is the second biggest reason South Africans listen to radio (after music) according to the BRC. For many South Africans, it’s their window pointed at the outside world and their realities are formed by the information they are given.

We’ve seen these traditional brands grow significant online platforms. This could certainly be a product of their existing reputation within the sector and with their audiences. Jacaranda FM’s news product, JacaNews, has established a strong digital presence, particularly in the audio on demand space. In the last 12 months alone, different news elements, such as interviews, soundbites and bulletins have been accessed, on average, over 1000 times every day. This not only speaks to relevance of information, but also the appetite to access digital audio offerings from trusted brands.

I think that there are a couple of key factors that play into the hands of audio brands:

  1. They have an existing relationship with their audience. Traditional media brands have spent years engaging with their audience. This pre-existing relationship makes them inherently more trusted.
  2. They know their audience. Audiences are heavily researched in the radio landscape, and an increase in demand for audience insights informs the brands even more to offer more relevant news and information.
  3. They have trusted voices. “Tell them John sent you!” Right?! Trust is earned and broadcasters have spent years earning this trust.
  4. News is localised – Offering an audience news that is relevant to them, within their community, allows audiences to make sense of the world and feel informed.
  5. It’s freely available – One of radio’s biggest unique selling points remains that its free to access. In a South African context, especially, this allows access to information to all South Africans.

Radio is in an enviable position where it understands the responsibility that it has to its audience, thanks to its past. Had it not built its existence and reputation on the foundation of trust, its fortunes may have been different, but it remains strong, reliable and trusted.

Hennie Myburgh is the programme manager of Jacaranda FM. With over a decade’s experience in media, he is responsible for the aggregation of audiences across multiple platforms through strategic content creation and curation, coupled with key talent, innovative promotions and strategic music delivery. Previously, Myburgh worked across the commercial and campus sectors conceptualising and driving music strategy