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As Trust in Online Media Drops, Email Newsletters Drive Engagement

As Trust in Online Media Drops, Email Newsletters Drive Engagement
Credit: Suteren/Shutterstock

Reaching out to an audience that trusts your message is hard these days. With cries of fake news on the rise and new technologies like deepfakes distorting what looks real, new data suggests consumers consider email newsletters as reliable sources of information.

According to a recent survey commissioned by PowerInbox and conducted by Mantis Research that polled 1,000 U.S. adults, online-only media gets just a 55 percent trust rating. Researchers also found that 73 percent of Americans worry fake news is being used as a weapon, and 34 percent trust social media as a source of news.

Conversely, nearly 60 percent of American adults in the study subscribe to an email newsletter of some sort. Given that people must submit their email address to receive a newsletter in the first place, researchers said there's an inherent trust between the publisher and the reader.

Since the average person largely distrusts social media and outlets like Facebook "control the traffic publishers receive," PowerInbox CEO Jeff Kupietzky said publishers have been forced to find other avenues to reach readers.

"Publishers are desperately seeking alternative channels to directly engage audiences, where they know their audiences will be guaranteed to see their content and the audience trusts the source," he said. "This data proves that email fits the bill perfectly for both guaranteed distribution and as a trusted channel."

For publishers, page views usually mean two things: Your content is being read and, therefore, is worth your employees' time, and advertising dollars will begin rolling in, since more page views usually translate into more revenue.

Yet, just as distrust in the media has increased because of outside influences, online advertising has been affected by a change in public perspective. According to a Deloitte Global survey, approximately 80 percent of North American internet users have at least one ad-blocking tool on their devices.

Even though most users actively try to avoid seeing advertising on the internet, researchers found that email newsletters generally drive engagement and click-throughs. According to the survey, roughly two-thirds of adults will click on an ad in an email if they trust its origin. That same number will click on a website ad if they trust the site.

When using mobile devices, approximately 80 percent of respondents said they would rather download a free app supported by ads than spend money on a similar ad-free app.

"Consumers recognize that the 'free' content they enjoy in emails and online does come at a cost, and they've proven willing to 'pay for it' by accepting ads," Kupietzky said. "However, our research shows that trust and relevancy are also extremely important to keep from alienating audiences. That's why working with a monetization partner who can help make the right matches between advertisers and publishers is so important."

Trust and engagement may be up when consumers trust the source, but sometimes people end up cutting ties with a publisher. While that's not an ideal situation for publishers or advertisers, researchers found that both parties can find a silver lining in the process.

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents said they choose to unsubscribe from a newsletter. That's a better alternative for publishers than having their emails marked as spam.

Email providers like Google's Gmail and Microsoft Outlook have robust anti-spam features that automatically send messages from certain addresses straight into the spam folder. If more and more users mark messages as spam, these email providers will eventually deliver those messages directly into the spam folder as well, leaving their contents unseen.

Researchers said just 25 percent of recipients said they mark emails they no longer want to receive as spam. Officials said this "points to respect for the brand" from the remaining 75 percent of respondents and a "desire to do no harm just because their interests change."

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a BA in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese-American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.