A new study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford shows that when people discover news via search or social media, they often forget who actually wrote the story.
“Less than half could remember the name of the news brand for a particular story when coming from search or social media,” the report found. Conversely, people were more likely to remember the platform on which they found it. So instead of saying “I read this New York Times article,” online news readers are more likely to simply state, “I found the post on Facebook.”
The study underscores one of the biggest existential crises facing media brands in the age of digital media: As outlets increasingly rely on platforms like Facebook and Google, news content is looking more homogenous—and brands are losing the qualities that make them distinct. On Facebook, one Instant Articles post looks a heck of a lot like every other. The findings are also not a good sign in the fight against fake news: If people can’t recall the actual source of the post—and instead simply remember how they found it—how do they know if it’s from a trusted source?
This is one of the many reasons why newspapers are banding together to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google. News Media Alliance president David Chavern told me last week that brand dilution on digital platforms is one of the things that’s killing the news business. You can read my interview with him here.