Credibility is one of the most vital aspects of journalism, a trait that ultimately allows the media to fulfil its role as the fourth estate. With the rise of digital journalism and countless technological innovations, credibility, reliability and ethical considerations have become all the more important. In particular, the ability to recognise a credible site and/or news article is a vital skill, especially given the massive amounts of news material available online.
For better or worse though, the appearance of a news site will play a massive role in judging the credibility of its content, and that’s before an article on the site has been read.
For the most part, people judge credibility in one of four ways – even if they aren’t aware of it. These fours aspects make up ‘Fogg’s model of perceived credibility’, as seen below.
Surface credibility relates to the appearance of a website and plays a clinical role in how the user perceives and judges the site.
I’m sure everyone has experienced online shopping at one point or another, and much like digital journalism, our first impressions are formed on the aesthetics of the site itself.
Take for example this website screen shot below. Immediately even by looking at the title ‘Welcome winner’ it screams dodgy. Further exploration of the site reveals it does not have Paypal or any other secure banking methods. These are just a few examples of the subconscious checklist we have developed to help decipher what we do and do not trust.
Credibility in journalism is no different to online shopping, where we are more inclined to put our trust in the big companies and disregard the less well-known sources.
The significance of surface credibility was reinforced in a recent study conducted at the University of California. The study collected data from 574 participants who were asked to assess the perception of message, site, and sponsor credibility, across four different genre websites (Flanigan, Metzger, 2007)
The results were striking; whereby credibility assessments appear to be primarily associated with design features, content depth and site complexity, rather than a familiarity with the websites sponsors (Flanigan, Metzger, 2007)
Given the overwhelming response by participants, it becomes clear just how important it is for bloggers to design and maintain their site in a way that looks trustworthy and professional. Particularly when bloggers can often have significantly more credibility and honour in what they are trying to achieve, as opposed to media organisations which can often be influenced by commercial gains.
On the flip side of the coin though, many media practitioners place more emphasis on social validation as opposed to traditional expert sources in recognising credibility (Hargittai, et al., 2010). Again, this further reinforces the benefits interacting and commenting on other blogs that you find interesting. Blogging is a two part activity, it is about writing your own articles, and then similarly critically reading and reviewing other blogs!
One interesting tactic I found for improving the credibility of your blog is by ‘guest posting’. Guest posting is when another user gives you the opportunity to write an entry on their blog, this adds diversity and a foreign opinion. If you do get the opportunity to guest blog, then you can also display their logo on your site and vice versa – this is usually done on the sidebar or near the main navigation bar. No matter what the location though, this well an truly raises the credibility of your blog (Jan, 2014)
With all of this in mind, it looks like I may need to brush up on my tech skills and give this WordPress a little bit more credibility!
- Flanagin, A., Metzger, M., 2007, ‘The role of site features,user attributes, and information verification behaviors on the perceived credibility of web-based information’, New Media and Society, volume 9, no.2, pp.319.
- Hargittai, E., Fullerton, L., Menchen–Trevino, E.,Thomas, L,. 2010. ‘Trust online: Young adults’ evaluation of Web content,’ International Journal of Communication, volume 4, pp. 468.
- Jan, M., 2014, ‘5 Ways to Add Credibility to your Website & Attract a Bigger Audience’, writing happiness.com, Accessed: 4/9/2014, http://writinghappiness.com/add-credibility-blogging/