Rusbridger: We need to think more like Google and Facebook

20 Mar 2017  |  Ellen Hammett 
Rusbridger: We need to think more like Google and Facebook

At a time when both Google and Facebook are under intense pressure to clean up a host of dodgy digital practices, it might come as a surprise to hear that the Guardian's ex editor-in-chief has said the press should start to think more like them.

Speaking at Ad Week Europe on Monday, Alan Rusbridger described the erosion of trust between the press and the general public as "desperately worrying" - adding that struggling newspapers could learn a thing or two from the digital duo as they hoover up publisher ad revenue.

"It’s very easy to say Google and Facebook are stealing money [from publishers] - they are and they’re awful," Rusbridger said.

"But they seem to have a relationship with people at large that the press ought to be thinking about."

A recent study revealed that trust in media is at an all-time low, with the number of people in the UK saying they trusted the media falling from 36% in 2016 to 24% - now lower than the British Government (26%).

Rusbridger, who was at the helm of the Guardian for two decades, called on the press to have a "moment of reflection" to figure out why people are becoming increasingly sceptical of modern-day journalism.

"We need to rethink how we can build more trust, and at the same time harness the power that exists out there because that’s what Google and Facebook are doing," he said.

"Let’s rethink the relationship with the reader, let’s have more of a conversation."

Rusbridger said the relationship between publishers and Facebook also needs a rethink - and that to pave the way for a sustainable future, publishers will need to think how to "reassert" their brand value within these digital platforms.

"I can’t think of an editor that can afford to not be on Facebook; that would be suicidal because a third to half of your audience is there," Rusbridger said.

"But by putting our journalism where the audience is, which we have no option but to do, you get disaggregated bits of content...We have to think how to reassert the value of the brand within these giant platforms that are soaking up all the advertising revenue.

"It’s not that they’re anti-brand, it’s just not their business."

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