There probably isn’t a day that goes by at the moment where you don’t hear the words ‘fake news’ at some stage, and probably not in an overly positive way for publishers. However, if you sift through all the talk about it and think of how it’s actually impacting the industry, then some potential opportunities and benefits for publishers do crop up. In order to do this, you need to think of why it is such a big problem now and see how it can be turned into a positive. After all, the concept and practice of ‘fake news’ (i.e. publishing articles with no factual basis with the sole intention of increasing revenues by shocking audiences) is far from new. So, why has it become such a massive problem now?:

  • The ever-increasing use and influence of social media. Don’t get me wrong, the real-time reporting of news is a fantastic thing, but it is also true that social media’s real-time nature has made it easier for false stories to spread and harder to monitor and control.
  • It is starting to really hurt revenues. Not only is important advertising revenue being slowly eroded by fake news sites, but we are also starting to see people losing faith and trust in quality publishers.

Two key solutions come out from these issues, and they are that publishers must start helping their audience in identifying fake news stories by fact-checking and highlighting false stories, as well as by talking and listening more to their audience and proving to them that their content is truthful and thus of a higher quality.

 

BUILD TRUST

As mentioned above, having some publishers sharing fake news stories left, right and centre means that more and more people are struggling to know who to trust when it comes to accurate reporting. This is why if publishers are going to succeed in a world becoming ever more saturated with false stories, they must market themselves as trustworthy and as the purveyors of truth.

Publishers have taken numerous approaches to try and do this, from French newspaper Le Monde listing unreliable websites and introducing a fact-checking service to Spanish publisher El Pais launching a blog dedicated to debunking false stories.

Publishers that are going the extra mile in their attempts to combat fake news (like the examples above) are more likely to earn your trust than those that aren’t, even publishers that operate on a far smaller scale than Le Monde. It doesn’t take an awful lot of effort to authenticate the sources you gather your information from to create your content, especially when you consider the significant benefits of earning audience trust.

 

ENGAGE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE

Trust, particularly in publishing, isn’t earned overnight. It’s natural for us to be suspicious of any news stories that are published nowadays. This means that honesty and transparency are vital if you are going to earn custom in the era of fake news.

But how can publishers be more transparent and honest? The main way is to listen, interact and respond to your audience. If you happen to have an inaccuracy in your content (as mistakes can happen), ignoring your reader’s corrections and not acting upon them is only going to break any relationship being developed between you and your audience. However, if you do act and interact with your audience, then the impact that can have on your reader’s opinion of you as a publisher of quality content can be very big indeed, particularly if the content you are producing is well-researched and very specific to your audience’s wants. Ensuring this may mean that some will stop reading your content regularly as the specificity of your content doesn’t suit them. But the audience you retain and gain will be a much easier group to target and advertise for, and an audience that are more likely to pay for your content.

 

Don’t get me wrong, fake news is far from a good thing, and that’s putting it lightly. However, saying that, as much as we try and educate the public on how to spot fake news and publishers try to eradicate it with fact-checking and quality standards, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and quality publishers will have to learn to deal with it. Making sure that you verify your sources, identifying false stories in your niche and listening and responding to what your audience has to say are certainly going to do you no harm in the fake news era, but the key thing to take away is that if your audience (and target audience for that matter) don’t trust you, and you make no little or no effort to change this, then you’re going to suffer, and it won’t exactly be straightforward to recover.