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Fight Fake News in Journalism: Media Intelligence, Your Best Ammunition

Original Content, Distributed Directly from Brands, Still Matters, According to the Cision CMO

Media Intelligence companies have demonstrated how 2018 could be the most challenging year for journalism and content marketing. Fighting against constant accusations of fake news on one hand and staying on top of media intelligence and analytics, journalists and content marketing professionals have an unprecedented battle ahead.

Fake news has been prevalent for the entire lifetime of the internet, but it’s just how fast it can spread now that’s particularly disturbing. – Chris Lynch

The recently published report from Cision, titled, 2018 Global State of the Media Report, revealed the true dynamics in the media and journalism ecosystems. We spoke to  Cision CMO, Chris Lynch, to understand how Cision in battling fake news demons and how technology could be the biggest ammunition for the journalists and media professionals in the fight against this menace.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch, CMO Cision

What are the key metrics that Cision measured in the ‘2018 State of the Media Report’?

We looked at the state of the journalism and media as a profession, and how media feels about the public perception of their craft. Three key areas stuck out for me.

The first was around the issue of fake news. Due to the rise of fake news, 71% percent of the media professionals we surveyed said they believe the public has lost trust in the journalism profession. While that sounds pretty dire, by perspective, that is down 20 points from last year, when 91% of them said they believed the public had lost trust. So, clearly, worries about fake news muddying the perception of their work remains an issue.

According to the 78% of the journalists, being 100 percent accurate is more important than being first on a story.

The second takeaway and this one is probably germane to the MarTech Series reader, is directly linked to what journalists want from brands who are trying to generate earned media coverage. For the third year in a row, journalists and influencers were asked to prioritize what brands and marcom professionals could do to engage with them.

Their top three included researching their beats better, understanding who they are better, and finally, understand what they cover better before pitching them.

The final takeaway was around how journalists like to consume information and research from the companies they cover. When asked to rank how they want to receive information from brands, they ranked press releases first and original research reports second. This shows that original content, distributed directly from brands, still matters.

Is technology a double-edged sword in this fight against fake news? 

It is a double-edged sword.

Data mining was used to determine what fake news will resonate with people. In the election, a huge portion of the fake news was believed by people because people on certain ends of the political spectrum wanted to believe it. All of the data we make available for advertising can be used with the goal of spreading fake information.

With fake news sweeping through adtech budget, how should brands invoke brand safety standards?

It’s important for them to know what audiences consume news articles the same way they track who views advertising itself. Most of the time, fake news is disguised to look as a journalistic content asset. The technology has evolved to the point now though that you can track what audiences read those articles, and potentially use advertising (such as retargeting) to deliver messages that set the record straight on fake news.

How could media intelligence and social monitoring tools improve content quality?

Earned media management is evolving to the point now that you can track what individual people are consuming media across different properties and publishers. Armed with this information, this empowers brands to adapt their messaging and content to distribute official content to the right people and combat misconceptions about their brand. By tracking brand sentiment, it can also inform their media strategy to address audiences that have heard false or misleading statements.

“PR pros must put forward material that’s not marketing jargon” – Could you explain how marketers can leverage PR as a strong marketing collateral?

I think the first thing you can do is stop thinking of it as marketing collateral.

Consumers trust earned media – that is, content that’s generated by people who are not in the employ of the brand – precisely for that reason. When communications and PR create content, the purpose should be to tell a simple, easy-to-understand story for influencers and media professionals to incorporate into their storytelling. Trying to spin a good journalist never works, and they’re less likely to carry your story forward.

Which content categories (human stories, politics, etc) are the worst performers on your fake news benchmarking?

We didn’t measure what channels or categories in which fake news was disseminated over. That said, we did ask what journalists about the impact of the fake news. 56% said they believed readers/viewers were more skeptical about all content as a result of the fake news. Perhaps on the more optimistic side of things, another 21% said they thought it was increasing the perceived importance of journalistic standards.

Fake news is a big deal and for good reason: It’s making people much more suspicious of all content they consume. Globally, 56 percent of respondents said that fake news is making readers more skeptical than ever about what they read and see.

Which technologies in media could safeguard content and social media teams from fake news and malvertising?

I think the social networks really need to step up here. Fake news has been prevalent for the entire lifetime of the internet, but it’s just how fast it can spread now that’s particularly disturbing. Facebook experimented with a downvote button recently and starting to scrub out stories that are flagged as false. But ultimately, they’ll have to do more and I’m not sanguine that it can be completely solved completely with technology.

The report quotes #MeToo and #TimesUp trends. Could you elaborate how Cision measured these numbers? Why are these campaigns featured in your Fake News study?

We asked the simple question: Do you think having movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp play out in media before cases go to a court of law help or hurt the perception of journalism?

To answer that question, the media was pretty split in three ways. 36% said it strongly enforces journalism role. 35% said it didn’t make any difference, while 29% said it hurt journalism’s image.

Could video be used to combat fake news?

I guess I may not have the most expertise here, but it strikes me that you can fake video technology now pretty effectively as well.

How would AI/ML and other emerging technologies influence the fight against fake news?

I do think the ability to mine responses to content and get smarter as you realize people are questioning the veracity of a story, could be leveraged with some of those technologies. It’s an area where the social networks sites are very behind, and something I think they should consider having more human labor help within the interim period.

Cancellation of journalism licenses if found engaging in fake news promotion – Is that a solution to fighting fake news?

I don’t think so. In the United States at least, there is no required credential or degree to practice journalism. It is a self-proclaimed thing to be a journalist, and the public ultimately judges you based on your work or based on the employer for whom you work.

In a society with free speech, anyone should be able to publish freely and the internet only helped make that barrier to entry lower. You hope all the right and correct ideas float to the top, but our democracy has never seen that principle tested more so than right now.

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