“The content distribution landscape is evolving so rapidly that what is cutting-edge today could be defined as ‘traditional’ by next year.”

That’s from a recent report by US eCommerce expert Acquity Group, titled ‘2015 Next Generation of Commerce Study’, and it sums up the content world pretty succinctly.

Just under a year ago I reported that digital marketing budgets are set to eclipse TV advertising, and the trend deepens still, with TV and now traditional print media having all but headed that way, too.

The notion of ‘traditional’ is no longer applicable and cannot be relied upon to bolster trust in a brand

Facebook more trusted than TV

Notably, Acquity reports that brands are more trusted on Facebook than anywhere else. Facebook has overtaken print, TV, and even email, as the most trusted channel for consumers to hear corporate messaging. That’s quite a development.

Apparently for example, nearly six out of ten consumers would rather watch an online streaming series that was produced by a brand like Red Bull, rather than watch the same sort of content created by a traditional media company, if it meant they didn’t have to watch adverts. People actually feel that level of vitriol towards being interrupted during their favourite show. Meanwhile the notion of ‘traditional media’ doesn’t hold the same clout with audiences these days.

Basically, you cannot assume that trust.

What does hold clout is simple quality. Getting people to share branded content isn’t an issue of trust; it just has to be good content. It can’t be sales-orientated or an obvious ad.

You need to show you have a multitude of fresh and outstanding ideas

For example, the Acquity report suggests that nearly half of consumers would be most likely to share a funny video with their networks. Second to that was sharing a video that spreads awareness about a cause and following that was an article revealing new findings in your industry of interest. So in terms of the most engaging values we see that funniness, mindfulness, and usefulness are important to audiences, regardless of where those values came from, but you do need someone with the ability to produce that sort of creativity if you want your edge.

In any case the thing least likely to be shared by a consumer is a link to a product they’ve just bought.

Equally, nearly half of consumers said that they would be more likely to share a video from a brand they’re loyal to, but this only has a genuine impact if it’s organic. Six out of ten consumers say they see too much sponsored content.

Find someone with the ability to produce that sort of creativity

Reader’s Digest changes its game

So what about traditional print? To answer that, I would direct your attention to that great publishing institution, Reader’s Digest.

Now, I’ve had what I’d describe as an emotional attachment to Reader’s Digest for most of my life. My dad’s an author and was a consultant editor with them for a while, so growing up I was regularly buried in one of a plethora of RD-published books. And it’s not just me. For nearly a century, Reader’s Digest has been putting lovely words in front of eager eyes. It’s a brand synonymous with trust, reliability and a wealth of well-researched, well-presented information. RD’s been as fundamental to the UK’s education as Blue Peter and the cane. So when, last week, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. changed its name to ‘Trusted Media Brands, Inc.’, from our perspective it’s kind of a big deal.

Trust, by any other name

Trusted Media Brands doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Thankfully Reader’s Digest is still the name of its beloved flagship magazine. Frankly I fail to see how that moniker has lost any relevance, but someone up there has decided that Reader’s Digest is outdated. And for one of the most trusted names in publishing to suddenly decide this after 93 years is very telling about what brand trust really means to today’s digital audiences.

“The company has undergone a complete turnaround and transformation over the past 24 months,” says Bonnie Kintzer, Trusted Media Brands’ CEO. “We’ve changed our business model to connect with consumers across all brands and through a variety of channels where readers want to engage. As we head toward our century milestone, it’s appropriate that our new company name reflects the culmination of those changes and the entity we have become – a modern, visionary, brand-driven multiplatform media business.”

That the company has opted for the everything-under-one-roof name ‘Trusted Media Brands’ to realise these plans tells us how differently audiences now tend to react to branded digital content.

Consumers turn to digital content because they trust it, and so digital must reward them with trustworthy content back. Calling yourself Trusted Media Brands seems like it’s going slightly over the top on that front, but if nothing else it does do what it says on the tin. It’s not about providing just the reading material any more; that won’t cut it. It’s a whole immersive, ‘multiplatform’ experience that leverages creative content in whatever form fits. For example, Reader’s Digest magazine has entered into a creative content partnership with storytellers’ institution The Moth, bringing together RD’s longstanding integrity with The Moth’s edgier storytelling approach, reaching new audiences and breathing new life into their offerings. The Moth, for instance, has recently been very successful at turning its talks into podcasts, so it seems RD can explore fresh media approaches with this partnership.

Even a highly respected purveyor of the written word can’t rest on its laurels

Cutting-edge content

What’s clear from Reader’s Digest’s redirection is that even a highly respected purveyor of the written word can’t rest on its laurels. If Reader’s Digest needs to innovate and get creative in its content marketing to stay competitive, then we should all be upping our game in quality content if we want it to get read, or better, shared.

The key message from all this is one of creative diversity and of fresh opportunity. The notion of ‘traditional’ is no longer applicable and cannot be relied upon to bolster trust in a brand, even one so reputed and long-respected as Reader’s Digest. You need to show you have a multitude of fresh and outstanding ideas; in the case of Reader’s Digest the name change clearly reflects that this is the way the company has been going these last few years. Meanwhile, that Facebook has become the most trusted messenger of corporate content shows this is the case for a host of industries. They’re listening to their audiences, and as such their audiences listen to them.

When a company like Reader’s Digest, that has (a) such a solid bedrock of public trust thrust upon it, and (b) a limitless supply of quality content, begins to turn its pages, that’s a big signal that everybody else needs to get their creative content caps on, because all bets are now off.