A new study found that readers are not engaging with editorial content on facebook and twitter, despite higher amount of time spent with social platforms.

Amid growing stories about the proliferation of fake news and propaganda on social platforms, there is more attention than ever before on the veracity and accuracy of news and where it is sourced.

A new survey released today by Sharethrough, reveals that premium publishers have some of the strongest brands in the country, ranking far ahead of Facebook and Twitter in terms of trust, engagement, and transparency when it comes to news sourcing.

According to the survey – completed in September 2017 in the U.S – premium publishers are trusted far ahead of social networks to deliver news.

-65% of respondents said they trusted Time, with CNN (60%), Wall Street Journal (59%) and the New York Times (59%) also scoring particularly high marks for trust.

-In comparison, less than half (41%) of respondents said they trust articles shared on Facebook, while 33% said they trusted Twitter.

– Twice as many respondents in the U.S. said that they didn’t trust Facebook as said they didn’t trust The New York Times (27% compared to 14%).

-Most legacy premium publishing brands surveyed by Sharethrough were viewed favourably by the public, including Time, which 62% of respondents viewed favourably, CNN (57%), The New York Times (55%), Fox News (55%), and People (51%). One key area that contributes to this favourability toward premium publishers is an understanding of where news content is sourced from, which 84% of respondents feel is very important to know.

-Premium publishers received far higher marks in this area than Facebook and Twitter. The New York Times led the way, with 75% of readers saying they knew where the information came from. The Wall Street Journal, Time, CNN, Washington Post, Fox and NPR all received high marks as well, easily eclipsing Facebook, where only 55% of readers said they understood where the article came from. Respondents were equally lukewarm on Twitter, with just 46% confident in the sourcing.

“There’s an increasing focus in the industry on the dominance of the duopoly in advertising and the increased pressure this places on news publishers who have to compete for ad spend,” said Dan Greenberg, founder and CEO of Sharethrough. “These survey results show that content and context matter in advertising, as much or even more than pure audience reach. If brands want to reach active and engaged consumers, then independent, premium publishers offer a unique experience that social networks can’t compete with. Advertisers need to take notice of this trend, and keep balancing their ad spend on social networks with their ad spend publishers on the open-web.”

This distrust comes even as social platforms exceed premium publishers in terms of time spent. More than two-thirds (69%) of people surveyed said they checked Facebook at least weekly, showing more active engagement than CNN and Fox News, the two premium publishers with the highest engagement rates. When users visit Facebook, they are spending substantial time there – 39% spend more than 30 minutes, compared to just 17% who spend that same amount on The New York Times.

Additional findings

  • Younger readers express more trust in legacy publishers. The results indicated that it wasn’t simply older audiences expressing these preferences, as younger readers spend more time reading premium publishers than they do scrolling for content. Respondents 18 to 34 years old said they are 17% more likely to read one more full article on The New York Times than they were on Facebook, and were 33% less likely to just browse headlines on the Times‘ website than they were on Facebook.
  • Publisher brands carry more weight than celebrity personalities. As the idea of the celebrity influencer grows in marketing circles, respondents expressed more favourable opinions towards prominent publishers than leading celebrities.
  • New York Times compels readers to finish articles. Of all the premium publishers included in the study, the Times had the highest percentage of readers likely to read a full article.

The study was conducted from August 25 to September 3, among a Qualtrics sample of 1,052 US residents ages 18-50, which was weighted evenly by gender and age. The study was also conducted in the UK from September 19 to 27, among 524 UK residents.

View the full report here.