Trust in the media is a perennial topic: some, like Adrian Monck, think trust is overrated while others are far more worried.
New start-up NewsCred, which launched in beta this week, plans to help by “aggregating all the world’s credible news” on one site. Users can then vote on the credibility of stories, journalists and their sources.
Founders Shafqat Islam and Iraj Islam think of NewsCred as a “digital newspaper” where readers customise their own content.
The more people that decide a story is credible – the higher its “CredRank” goes and, theorectically, the more people read it. Interestingly, blogs and online newspapers are given equal billing – will users vote that the blogosphere is just as trustworthy as mainstream media?
The CredRank for the global media industry according to NewsCred users at the time of writing was 99.7 per cent, a figure that will surely go down as more people sign up.
The press release reads: “Access to credible and accurate news is a cornerstone of democracy and it’s absolutely essential that news readers can trust the news they read.
“Giving news readers a platform to voice their opinions and building an online track record for journalists towards restoring some of the media’s lost credibility.”
NewsCred has hints of Hubdub – the site that lets you bet on the news with imaginary Hubdub dollars – but instead of users winning things, it’s the news sources that stand to benefit.
The company, based in Geneva and Stockholm, was nominated for the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer Award for 2009.
I asked Shafqat Islam if there was a problem that most readers have no way of knowing whether a story is credible. He said: “We really believe that being a news reader is qualification enough to voice your opinion on the quality of news. With that said, we are very aware that not everyone will be able to judge the quality or credibility of every piece of news.
“But on the whole, we believe that the aggregate knowledge of the community is far superior to that of each individual. So even if some are better than others, if we build a critical mass, the data should draw some interesting conclusions.”
He also says that specific audiences “might have specialised knowledge (i.e. doctors, engineers, techies)”. Islam’s goal is improve public trust in the media: “As Gandhi said, it’s better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness.