Why Trust, Not Crypto, Is Today’s Most Valuable Online Currency


In uncertain times, trusted sources become even more significant in the world of media. Elise Bennett (pictured), head of account management (APAC) at Outbrain, reveals what advertisers need to know about the new trust exchange.

Instability breeds uncertainty. From bushfires to the pandemic and war, there’s been plenty of both to go around in recent years.

These events inevitably come to dominate the daily news cycle. The sheer weight of harrowing information thrown at us daily means a simple glance at the headlines can feel like yet another doom-scrolling session.

But it’s hard to look away. Equally, it’s no surprise that news websites have seen such a massive uptick over the past few years. At the height of the pandemic, Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings revealed an increase of 57 per cent across the top ten news sites’ audiences in March 2020, compared to February of the same year.

It just goes to show our reliance on the media in times of trouble. The need for reliable and accurate information has never been more important.

There is no room for misinformation, not when we’ve all seen how dangerous it can be. The pandemic proved how quickly information can become warped online, and how facts can become lost in virality. Being able to trust the content we’re consuming is now one of the main reasons people choose one online platform over another.

For advertisers, that makes trust one of the most valuable commodities – and now you need to work hard to earn and retain it. With so many online media channels competing for attention, customers are more suspicious and wary of advertising than ever.

To explore this further, Outbrain and Savanta teamed up for a global study, the Power of Native, to look into the changing nature of trust, recommendations and advertising online. The research discovered that news sites are some of the most trusted online spaces for Australians, with 71 per cent of consumers trusting content and recommendations seen in editorial environments. That’s compared to just 50 per cent who trust content and recommendations from user-generated social media sites.

That means that while trust is harder to win, it’s all about the strength and value of the information being offered. Native advertising, for example, rates highly in this regard, with 47 per cent of people trusting the information they find when they click on native ads. For an advertising campaign to be successful, it needs to have substance and weight behind it.

The same goes for the online channels customers seek out. The more likely a website is to offer unreliable information, the more likely it will lose its audience. Outbrain’s study found 25 per cent of people are planning to spend less time on social media in the next six months. Of that group, 33 per cent are planning to spend that time visiting websites with editorial content.

This shift means it’s increasingly important that advertisers and marketers think more deeply and carefully about where and how brands appear online. It’s no longer a question of just ensuring that advertising aligns with the general tone of the page it’s being displayed on. It’s about ensuring the advertising fosters trust for both the publication and the brand as well.

We can look to some of the giants of the internet as examples of when the trust exchange fails. Netflix’s much-scrutinised fall in subscribers, and Facebook’s drop in Daily Average Users in Q4 2021 aren’t unrelated situations. Both of these companies are battling with a content problem. And on top of this, audiences increasingly don’t believe their attention (and in Netflix’s case – money) is being rewarded adequately.

In the new world, customers expect that in exchange for the attention they pay your brand, they’ll be rewarded with information they can actually use in their lives. It’s clear audiences won’t be taken for granted anymore.

That’s why any value your brand can provide needs to be established before you can expect to move customers through the purchasing journey. Native advertising again stands out in this area – Savanta’s research shows that 20 per cent of people found these ads helpful, and 24 per cent thought they were informative.

So in the battle to win trust in the online arena, there are a few ways brands can ensure they’re targeting customers in the most effective and engaging way possible. Headlines are one key way to do this, and can sometimes be overlooked in marketing strategies. However, the research found that 43 per cent of Australians like it when a site they’re on presents them with content recommendations using headlines.

These headlines need to be short and sharp – much like a news headline would be. They’re most effective for grabbing attention and pulling customers in to learn more about the topic.

Animations and videos are also essential in drawing customers in, with 34 per cent of Australians saying they like it when a site presents them with recommendations using these. Crucially, they are both engaging and eye-catching, and prove that advertisers can’t skimp on the creative.

It may feel as if it’s all doom and gloom at the moment. But remember, in times of uncertainty, being trusted by your customer is invaluable – and can be the difference between your brand and your competitors.

Source: Power of Native, an Outbrain commissioned survey by Savanta, February 2022

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