In search engines we trust?

Hong Kong

Concerns about privacy and piracy aside search engines appear able to do little wrong. Google is regularly rated one of the most trusted companies in the world. A 2013 study by media agency OMD discovered Britons trust Google as much as they do the church. Baidu is one of the five most trusted brands in China. Data from PR firm Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer suggests search engines are regarded as more trustworthy sources of general news and information than all other forms of media, including the traditional/mainstream media and online word of mouth/social media.

Media sources search

It is an interesting finding that raises all manner of questions for traditional news publishers, social media platform operators, marketers, public relations professionals and others. But the research also begs the question: should search engines really be classified as a media ‘source’?

I expect search engines to deliver a good range of links to relevant, timely news coverage either when a story is breaking or when I want to get a sense of what others beyond my staple news provider(s) are saying. They are also useful for conducting basic research into a company, industry or topic. Edelman’s data suggests this is also the case for many others.

EdelmanTrustBarometer_BizInfoSources_2015

While we may trust Google to dredge up a decent sample of the latest news coverage research studies consistently show we continue to trust news and information from the mainstream media, companies and brands, and through friends sharing experiences and making recommendations above other sources. The fact that an article or video analysis is produced by a recognised journalist at the AP or BBC or by a blogger or colleague who we figure knows what he is talking about continues to determine whether we take it seriously, irrespective of whether the content is viewed on the publisher’s website, mobile app, Facebook or Google.

Edelman’s annual trust updates provide fascinating insights into the nature and dynamics of trust across the world, but in the area of media sources it seems to be comparing apples with pears.

Or am I being pedantic?

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