Readers expect their news content to be reliable and trustworthy, but many are skeptical. Readers cite issues such as uncensored sources, rapid press influx, sloppy coverage and deliberately misleading news sites that undermine the credibility of the published content. However, readers are eager for reliable, factual and objective news – and are even willing to pay for it. The increased trust comes from more transparency in the reporting and writing process, and the solution to this for news sites comes from an unusual source: blockchain technology.
Confidence in publishing today
We recently released the Trust in Digital Publishing report, which aims to show how readers are currently feeling about the news pages they follow, the stories they watch, and how reliable they are. We found that 61% of respondents want to do a better fact check and be more aware of the accuracy of the news pages they follow. They believe news sites publish inaccurate information due to inexperienced journalists or unfair practices, and 35% believe that news organizations do not take readers’ interests into account. Meanwhile, 42% stopped reading news pages they had read before, and 51% left news pages because of a single article they felt was inaccurate.
But readers are already looking for good, fact-based news: 46% of respondents said they would be willing to pay for accurate journalism. They say better fact-checking, emphasis on accuracy over speed, more transparency in the editorial process and acknowledging the news organization’s mistakes can help build credibility. When it comes to transparency in the editorial process, some news sites have begun to “show their work” – for example, Washington Post journalist David Frenthold posts photos of his research notes to his Twitter followers. This process allows readers to see how stories have been researched and put together.
But I think organizations can go even further and use blockchain timestamps to increase readers’ trust.
Related topics: Trust is still needed in the unreliable world of cryptocurrency
How blockchain can increase trust
Blockchain technology did not start with cryptocurrency. It was created earlier in 1991 by researchers Stuart Haber and W. Scott Sturtert as a white paper entitled How to Mark Time on a Digital Document. They predicted that the digital world would question the authorship and authenticity of documents. “They were wondering how we can know exactly what is true about the past,” Amy Whitaker wrote to the Wall Street Journal. “What prevents the falsification of historical data – and is it possible to protect such information for future generations?” Haber and Stertter’s solution: data time stamp.
Instead of taking documents and data and sending them to a timestamp service for storage, where they can still be changed, Haber and Sterterta suggested tagging the data with a unique identifier or hash that would be associated with the data. The unique hash will then be sent to a storage service – such as “old school copyright” – associated with a specific version of a document or data and stored in a decentralized public ledger. This is how blockchain works, which began with the recognition of the need to protect the accuracy of the content.
Related: Back to the original blockchain goal: timestamp
The same utility cases that Haber and Stertert suggest can be used today: time-stamping inventions or ideas to show who created them first, or stamps on company documents to prove that they were tampered with. But the biggest use issue today is where most of us get the most out of our information: the Internet.
Stamping can be a way to verify authorship, identify unauthorized changes to content, and provide more transparency and confidence in an article that someone reads. After creating a piece of content, the news source marks its unique hash, which will then be added to the public blockchain for all to see. This unique hash of name, date and type in itself corresponds to the relevant content. Once a hash is added to the blockchain, it cannot be changed. If the content of the section is updated or changed, a new hash must be generated with a different timestamp. Essentially, an individual fingerprint is created for each content that a news organization creates to validate the integrity of open source code.