As the COVID-19 crisis escalated to pandemic status earlier this year, the World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned about what he dubbed the “coronavirus infodemic” – an eruption of untrustworthy reports about the virus.
These reports have spread especially quickly on social media – leaving print media an increasingly trustworthy alternative source of news about the pandemic.
How Misinformation Has Spread in COVID-19’s Wake
One article published by The Conversation highlights various instances where misinformation has proliferated during the early days of the pandemic. One conspiracy theory, for example, argued that the virus was created to pit a biological war against China.
In China itself, meanwhile, one rumour suggested that COVID-19 was genetically engineered as a result of research in a Wuhan laboratory before being released. Well before the first medically-proven COVID-19 vaccines arrived, various dubious remedies for the disease were also proffered.
How Print Media has Become a Comforting Source of Reliable News
The variety of exaggerated or false COVID-related claims and hoaxes appears to have led more and more people to attach increased value to print media. One study reported by Press Gazette suggests that two-thirds of British people have grown to “appreciate and value journalism more since the global coronavirus pandemic began.”
The study revealed that, though 42% of its participants under 35 years of age had used social media more often at the pandemic’s peak, 70% of these people were less anxious about a story they had read on social media once they had checked that story’s reliability with a news brand.
About two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said that a “world without journalism would harm democratic society”, while nearly all of these people deemed journalists “important to society” and felt they did work “covering important topics and issues that might otherwise be overlooked.”
Why Print Media Tends to Garner More Trust Than Social Media
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, remarked about the long-held understanding “that the public supported a free press and recognised the need for the mainstream media with its ability to provide well-researched, balanced, correctly-edited news content”.
The time required for analysing, assessing and communicating such content means that it often won’t spread as quickly as less well-informed content posted to social media. However, there is good reason to believe that advertisers looking to win over wary members of the public can benefit immensely from promoting their offerings through print rather than digital media.
In research outlined by the research firm YouGov, it was found that consumers trusted print ads 24% more than ads seen on search engines. Furthermore, a large majority of consumers aged 18 to 23 found printed content easier to read than digital.
These figures bode well for businesses that have struggled in the pandemic but are contemplating using a printer, binding machine and similar technology to create their own print marketing materials. Such equipment could easily pay for itself over time, given that print ads are also likely to deliver a better return on investment (ROI) than online ads.