Have you heard the phrase “information age?” Truly we are living in that time, as free information connects the world more rapidly than ever before with an increasing frequency and volume than ever before possible. Technology has made everyone an expert capable of distributing facts, fiction and opinions to most of the literate world, if they will only click on your site or email. You are reading this blog as an example.
To quantify this information, Wikipedia reports that as of 2006, Google had already indexed more than 25 billion websites (long before this one existed), and was getting 400 million inquiries per day. In 2010, YouTube reported that 35 hours of video was being uploaded every minute, and that it already consumed more bandwidth than the rest of the internet.
Last week, at an Atlanta discussion about social media by Jim McManus, a founder of NewsCertified, he cited the fact that presently more information is published every two days than was published from the dawn of civilization until 2003.
Considering all of this information zipping around in cyberspace and between our ears, the question must be asked, form where does the information originate and who do you trust? As any good consultant might respond, “it depends.”
The communications firm Edelman presents an annual Trust Barometer, a study for their clients that is drawn from a survey they conduct in 25 countries worldwide. I recently attended the presentation of their 11th annual survey. The results are very interesting and insightful if you are in a business concerned with obtaining financing from others to succeed.
For example, worldwide trust in “business” is shared by 56% of the respondents, but only 46% in the U.S. Trust specifically in banks is only 50%, but in the U.S. is only 25% (down from 71% in 2008!).
A more thorough reading of their results makes obvious that â€˜trust’ is a relative state that changes as world events unfold. With the advent of more information, we are less prone to believe everything we hear, and even less of what we always thought we knew. We have more resources than ever to gather and filter information. Edelman learned that people have to hear information 3 times before 59% of them will believe it.
“Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
One of the risks in our information age is that technology and speed often supersede verification and context. Consider the trust garnered by the late CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite compared to a web-based news site like Slate. News gathering today seems more possessed with speed and sensationalism than the more responsible consideration of accuracy and impact.
Just recently an NPR development officer was fired and the president resigned over a video published taking the former’s views and actions largely out of context. But doing the more laborious work to investigate the story, interview the story’s source and target, and getting third party verification took time that was ignored in the rush to get a story out that was more damaging than it deserved to be.
Trust should be considered a personal and business asset to be cultivated and protected. In this information age, it is more challenging than ever and is constantly under scrutiny. But here is one fact that you can trust: getting equity or debt financing will always depend on trust – if you plan to find it, you have to be worthy of the trust it will require.