People trust Google for their news more than the actual news

Nothing to clap about if you’re a journalist.
Nothing to clap about if you’re a journalist.
Image: Reuters/Tiffany Brown/Las Vegas Sun
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

For the second year in a row, more people trust Google for their news than the news outlets whose articles Google aggregates.

Around the world, 63% of people say they trust “search engines” for news and information, according to a survey of 33,000 people across 28 countries by Edelman, a US public relations firm. Only 53% trust “online-only media.”

Edelman released the report ahead of its presentation at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which begins Wednesday (Jan. 20).

The results imply that readers are more likely to trust a headline they read in Google’s news aggregator, over the same headline on its original website. This is not exactly encouraging news to the journalism industry.

One reason for the disparity could be the way news outlets package stories for specific platforms. Headlines that have been optimized for search engines are usually short and fact-based (hence the trust), while headlines shared on other platforms—social media in particular—can be more open to interpretation. Facebook is now the top traffic referrer to publishers, ahead of Google.

Edelman’s report separately found that 78% of people trust news shared by their friends or family online—much higher than if it’s shared by academic experts (65%) or those darned journalists (44%).

Weak trust of media aside, the survey is arguably a testament to Google’s marketing prowess. Google is routinely ranked as one of the most trusted companies in the world, finishing second in a 2015 survey of the world’s most reputable companies behind only BMW (and ahead of companies like Disney, Apple, and Microsoft).

Google is not, of course, the only search engine. But it is responsible for 64% of internet searches in the United States, according to comScore. Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing lag far behind. Google is used even more outside of the US, where Yahoo and Bing are less popular.