Posts about trust

What Toyota should do

Including my parents, we own four Toyotas in my family; over time, we’ve probably owned eight or 10. Will we ever buy another? Depends. Depends on whether we can trust the company given its performance lately.

There’s a reason we bought our Toyotas. They are incredibly reliable. I abuse mine, skipping service calls. But — knock wood — I’ve not had any major problems. So even though I don’t much like Toyota design and — as a professor, can no longer afford to pay for that styling with the Lexus brand — I thought I was pretty much stuck buying them forever. Why fix what’s not broken, eh?

But now we find out our Toyotas are broken. We find out that Toyota has known this for too long and done nothing. We call our dealer and get stonewalled about the problem with brakes in the Prius our son drives. Dealers in California drop ABC because it dared to report on the problems.

Didn’t these people read Cluetrain? (Should I send them a copy of What Would Google Do?)

Their behavior is all the more unforgivable because there are so many new tools to use to learn about and fix problems and keep customers informed — and because there have been so many lessons from other companies (start with Dell).

If Toyota were the trustworthy company, brand, and product I thought it was — if it is to regain my trust — I suggest:

The company should gather and publish openly a complete record of all repairs and reported problems for all its models. I hope to hell they’re doing this internally as a way to see when problems emerge. But if they don’t, we should. I’d love it if we had a carwiki where we could all do this with cars (and other products) to show trends and alert companies and — if they don’t respond — warn customers. Think of it as a SeeClickFix for our stuff.

When Hyundai entered the U.S. and had plenty of reliability problems, it extended its warranty to 10 years and that, today, is a selling point. In the age of open and social data, Toyota could regain its perch as a reliable brand by becoming the open brand, by making reliability a collaborative effort.

I think the company should also reengineer its cars for regular updates, like phones. Mind you, in my book — and when I discuss my likely next book, Beta — I am always quick to caution that I don’t want to drive the beta car or fly in the beta jet. When safety is an issue, perfection has to be the goal.

But we know that there can always be improvements. Nothing’s perfect. My Nexus One worked but after getting its update — automatically — on Friday, it works better and does more. In many of their systems, cars could operate similarly.

The problem with the Prius brakes is in its software. An update will allegedly fix it. Priuses sold last month had the update. Why the hell wasn’t the update pushed out to every Prius? Why did we have to argue with our dealer about this? Because it’s treated as a problem, a recall, a liability in both legal and PR terms. But if the culture of cars were like those of computers and phones — if they could get updates automatically — then it would be less of a big deal: Problem found, problem solved, asap. Improvement suggested, improvement implemented, anytime.

I wish we could drive our cars up to our home wi-fi or the nearest Starbucks (or dealer … or even my mobile phone) and connect to get updates and improvements. If that were possible — if that’s how many problems were solved — then cars would be engineered differently, operating as much as possible under drive-by-wire and nodes of a network.

When we talked about this yesterday, my colleague Peter Hauck blanched at the idea that cars could be hacked. Yes, I can see new plotlines for TV detective shows or even 24: at the stroke of midnight, the hacker’s worm has every car in America turn right, stop, and go into reverse (not-so-subtle metaphor there).

Yet by opening up, car companies can not only discover problems but fix them — and improve their cars. Look at what is happening at Local Motors as members of the community collaborate to design cars and even make economic decisions about them. Now just as I always give my caveat about the beta car, I also always have to issue my caveat about the democratic car: I don’t want design by vote — I don’t want the Homer Simpsonmobile — but I do think the smart car company would be open to the smarts of its drivers. I’ll bet that the community of Toyota drivers could find problems faster than the company and suggest fixes and suggest improvements.

So, Toyota, you can issue overdue recalls and then apologize until you’re blue in the face but that won’t regain my trust. You have to do something bold and become the first car company that enables its community of drivers. If you don’t do it, I’ll bet Ford will.

Davos09: A crisis and failure of leadership

The crisis the world is suffering through now is a failure of leadership. The leaders of the world are in Davos. If the world is watching what happens here this week, it will be to hear solutions and see responsibility and accountability. I’d say that’s not off to a great start, at least on the latter.

This morning, I started my Davos week with talk of trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer presentation revealed plummeting trust in financial, government, and journalistic institutions: 62% of adults in 20 countries trust companies less than they did a year ago. Trust in government is even lower.

Nonetheless, the first trend I spot here: the rise of government. News reports have been saying that this will be a dialed-down Davos, but I don’t see that; it’s the same Davos with the same pastries and parties. The change I do sense is less of a presence and apparent swagger from business and more from government. “Power has shifted from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue,” said a speaker the Edelman event.

The other obvious trend is America to the woodshed. “America is the new Europe,” Richard Edelman said. In a decade of the survey, they have never seen such a precipitous drop in trust in one category: American business, falling from 58% to 38% in a year, now stands equivalent to France and Germany and under the UK. The least-trusted industries in the U.S.: no surprise — automotive and banking.

In most markets, trust in business remains higher than trust in government, “which is not a good thing for either,” Edelman says. Asked who can fix the economy and prices, government is now clearly the preferred leader, the survey says. The percent who agree that government should impose “stricter regulations and greater control over business across all industry sectors:” 61% in the U.S. up to 84% in France (65% worldwide). The percent who trust business less: 62% worldwide, ranging from 77% in the U.S. down to 49% in India.

The survey reveals a new world spit: optimists in China (where trust in business rose from 54% to 71% in a year), Brazil, India, Indonesia, pessimists in the US, Europe. “The United States picture is really bleak. I can’t put a better face on it,” Edelman said.

Edelman advised companies to make change and not wait for regulation, to recognize mutual social responsibility, and to show “shared sacrifice…. This is not the French Revolution yet but it is certainly not the roaring 2000s,” he said.

His advice on communication: “It can no longer be Moses from the mountaintop.” You have to inform your employees and enable them to blog, for they’ll talk anyway. Communication moves from messaging to informing the conversation, he said. If one can trust companies — only 29% do. Government is worse; only 27% trust what they say.

Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, began the session saying that trust is an issue for the press as well. Edelman found that trust in business magazines and analysts fell from 57% to 44% and from 56% to 47% respectively. Trust in TV news is down from 49% to 36% and in newspaper coverage from 47% to 34%. Stop on that: Two thirds of people don’t trust newspaper articles.

After all this talk about trust, though, breakfast ended up serving spin. An executive of AIG split a very long hair, drawing a distinction between distrust over morals and distrust over competence and he argued that our issue now is the latter. An executive at another company said trust fell from a record high to a record low and he wondered whether business had simply oversold itself. Then there was much discussion of a new concept (or new buzzphrase): “private sector diplomacy.” Isn’t that a fancy way to say PR?

Later: A video of Richard Edelman after the session on trust:

: Crossposted at the Harvard Business Review, where I hope another discussion blooms.

The trust problem

One of the old saws of mainstream journalism is that it owns trust, that’s why people go to it. But we keep seeing polls that belie that, the latest from Harris, which found that less than half of Americans trust most media.

During this political primary season, the media, especially cable news networks, have seen a large increase in viewers, listeners and/or readers. But, with all this do people actually trust the media? The answer is not really. Looking at the press in general, over half (54%) of Americans say they tend not to trust them, with only 30 percent tending to trust the press. Just under half (46%) of Americans say they do not trust television, while one-third (36%) do trust them. Somewhat surprisingly, Internet news and information sites do slightly better as a plurality of Americans (41%) trust them while just one-third (34%) tend not to trust them. And, radio tends to do best among Americans as 44 percent say they tend to trust it and one-third (32%) tend not to trust radio. . . .

Overall, Democrats are more likely to trust the media than Republicans, even with regard to radio. Just over half of Democrats (51%) trust radio compared to 45 percent of Republicans, and 45 percent of Democrats tend to trust Internet news and information sites compared to 40 percent of Republicans. The largest differences are for television and the press. Half of Democrats (50%) say they tend to trust television compared to three in ten (31%) Republicans. When it comes to the press in general, a plurality of Democrats (43%) say they tend to trust them, but only one in five (19%) of Republicans say the same.

I don’t think it’s surprising at all that the internet has better scores than the press. That’s surprising only to the press. And therein lies, I think, a solution to the problem: The press is a them and the internet is an us. The more that news organizations involve their publics, the more the public feels a stake and ownership in journalism, the more the public has an influence on journalism and its means and use of resources, the better chance there is that people will trust that journalism. Yes, predictably, I’ll say this is about collaboration but not just in reporting. This is also about collaborating to decide what stories deserve ever-more-scarce-and-precious journalistic resources. This is about more openness, transparency, and respect shown by the journalists. This about journalism trying to become first-first plural.

The emergence of media tribes

The latest Pew Research Center study on Americans’ views of their news media show falling trust, growing divides, and the emergence of media tribes. There’s much to chew and choke on in this. Here are some of their findings and my musings:

News media continue to lose respect

That’s not surprising news but it’s still quite sobering. Though the majority of Americans still have generally favorable views about news media (from 60% favorable about national newspapers — specifically the New York Times and Washington Post — to, inexplicably, 79% favorable about local TV news), those numbers have fallen since 1985 (when 81% spoke favorably of national newspapers and cable news topped the list at 91%). For comparison: Favorable opinions of the Supreme Court are down 12 points and Congress 20 points since 1985; for the Democratic Party 8 points and the Republicans 12 points (to only 42%) since 1992. Only the military’s rating has risen. So the nation is getting more critical of everyone. I’ll get to a theory on that in a minute (hint: Fox).

But drill down to the specifics and MSM’s grades get worse. Today a majority of Americans says stories are often innacurate (53% now vs. 34% in 1985). I’ll get to why I think there’s a bit of a turn there in a minute (hint: Bush).

A majority say that the media are biased (55% today vs. 45% in 1985). But a plurality has always thought news media are biased. I say it’s time for news media to admit it and I also say that will improve their trust.

A plurality no longer thinks news media are moral (moral?): 46% today vs. 54% in 1985.

Yet 66% today think the news media are highly professional and — take this as good news — 44% think they protect democracy (36% disagree and 20% don’t know).

pewcriticism0809.gif

That’s the foundation. Now we’ll see some intriguing trends and divisons Pew finds. . . .

The emergence of media tribes

Pew was most struck by the growing difference in opinions about media among people who use different media. Bottom line: People who use the internet as their primary source for news — who are also younger and better educated than the rest of the country — are the most critical of mainstream media (and probably the most likely to sneer at it as “MSM”). TV viewers are older and also less critical.

I see the emergence of media tribes.

Different groups use different media and have different views of that media. Perhaps that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, the internet is used to criticize MSM and it attracts people who are critical of MSM and thus it is more critical of MSM. Or not. It could be that younger, better-educated people are already inclined to be critical of MSM and that is why they gravitate to a medium that gives them more choice, comparison, and control. Chicken, meet egg.

This is an inevitable outcome of the end of monolithic media: the death of The Press. Now that we have the means of comparison, we compare — and the old controllers do not compare well. I have long decried the allegedly grand shared experience of media that really lasted only three decades — from the 50s, when network TV killed second and third newspapers locally, to the 80s, when the cable box, VCR, and remote control gave us more choice, to the mid 90s when the internet gave us more control. I say it is a good thing to have more voices, more perspectives, more means to compare.

But I’ll also note that this division of the media tribes means that we are each seeing different Americas. That will have ever greater implications for not only news media but also for politics and public policy as well as any consumer business. Of course, this means you can’t just buy network TV to sell soap or ideas anymore. But it also means you’re never talking to one nation.

Note again that the ratings are generally favorable. But there are clear differences. Some numbers from Pew: 60% of Internet users (that is, and I’ll say this once, those who use the internet as their primary source of news) rate national papers — again, the Times and Post — favorably; that’s the same for the population as a whole. But 68% of internetters rate local TV favorably vs. 78% of the nation; that’s 62% of the internet vs. 75% of the nation favorable of cable news, 61% vs. 71% for network news, and 71% vs. 78% for local daily papers. In every case, TV viewers give these media higher favorable ratings.

Now to get more specific: 64% of internet users say that news organizations are politically biased (vs. 55% for the nation as a whole and 46% for TV viewers). 59% say that the stories are often inaccurate (vs. 53% for the nation). 68% of internet users say media don’t care about the people they report on (vs. 53%, still a majority, of the nation). And — get this — 53% of internauts say the media are too critical of America (vs 43% for the nation). I think we’ll see why that is next. . .

The growing political divide over the media

Pew found a growing partisanship in views of media. In 1985, we were unified with strong favorable opinions of network news: 88% of Republicans and independents and 92% of Democrats rated TV news favorably. Today, that’s only 56% favorable for Republicans, 70% for independents, and 84% for Democrats. Same story for the national papers: Democrats’ favorable ratings fell from 85% to 79%, independents from 80% to 60%, Republicans’ from 79% to a very grumpy 41%.

This pattern — the growing divide — holds, of course, in specific views of media behavior. Is the press too critical of America? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. only 23% of Democrats. Does the press hurt democracy? 48% of Republicans say yes vs. 28% of Democrats. Are media politically biased in their reporting? 70% of Republicans vote yes vs. 39% of Democrats (and, for comparison, 61% of independents… to me this indicates that “bias” means “disagrees with me”). Is the press liberal? Guess what: 75% of Republican say yes vs. 37% of Democrats. This divide also shows in the parties’ view of press performance. Are stories often inaccurate? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. 43% of Democrats. Note that in all these cases, the split is much greater than in 1985. The Republican-Democrat gap, as Pew calls it, grew from 9 to 40% in their views of whether the press is critical of America, from 6% to 20% over whether the press hurts America, from 6% to 31% over the question of political bias. These tribes are growing farther apart.

Why? Read on. . . .

Fox News, the great negativity machine

The Fox News tribe is markedly more critical of media and I don’t think that’s just because media are criticizing Bush and because Republicans — who, not surprisingly, outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 among Fox viewers — have long thought media to be biased and liberal. I think it’s because Fox News is inherently negative and is effective at spreading that negativity. You’ll find some justification for that view in the Pew numbers.

63% of the Fox tribe — that is, viewers who count Fox as their main source of news — believe that news media’s stories are often inaccurate vs 46% of CNN viewers and 41% of network news viewers. Foxers say that the news media are too critical of America: 52% of Fox viewers say that vs. 36% for CNN viewers and only 29% for network news viewers. Are media unfair to George Bush? 49% of Foxers say yes vs. only 19% of CNNers and 22% of network people. Are media politically biased? 54% of Foxers vote yes vs. 46% of CNNers and 42% of network viewers (note again that this is a widely held view). Now getting to views of specific media, only 39% of Fox viewers think favorably of the national papers vs. 69% of network viewers. That’s 72% vs. 83% for local daily papers, 59% vs. 87% for network TV news, 81% vs. 86% for local TV news.

More evidence for this Fox-negativity theory: CNN viewers are more favorable to Fox than Fox viewers are to CNN. That tells me that CNN viewers are nicer or at least less grumbly. They see the world through rose-colored TV lenses. The numbers: 79% of CNN viewers rate Fox favorably while 55% of Fox viewers say the same thing about CNN.

The divide over cable news carries into other media tribes. Says Pew: “Dislike of both major cable news networks runs notably high among Americans who count newspapers and the internet as tehir main sources of national and international news. One-third of people who count on the internet for most of their news express an unfavorable view of Fox, and roughly the same number (31%) feel negatively toward CNN.” Pew adds that the polarized views of Fox and CNN, not surprisingly, “are most prevalent at the ideological extremes — conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.”

pewfoxified0809.gifNow here’s the interesting bit: Pew looked at “Fox-ified Republicans” — that is, data show that “being a Republican and a Fox viewer are related to negative opinions of the mainstream media. . . . Republicans who count Fox as their main news source are considerably more critical than Republicans who rely on other sources.” Specifically, 71% of Fox-ified Republicans hold unfavorable views of the n national papers vs. 52% of Republicans in other media tribes and 33% of nonRepublicans. Note, by the way, that only 28% of Republicans are Fox-ified. That’s an important political stat. That may be how the Democrats justified snubbing the Fox presidential debates, but I still say that was short-sighted.

The growth of demographic tribes

We know well that media usage varies by age. Some Pew numbers: Comparing 1995 (note the different year) with 2007, it’s clear again how much the internet is affecting other media. Asked how they get their news about national and international newspapers (note that they could give two answers), 26 percent today use the internet vs 6% in 1999; it wasn’t asked in 1995 (which was barely after the creation of the browser). Compare that with TV — 65% now vs. 82% in 1995, newspapers — 63% then vs. 27% now (OUCH), radio — 20% then vs. 15% now, and magazines — 10% then vs. 2% now (and one wonders why the newsmagazines are sputtering).

Now look at the impact age has on opinions of media. Favorable opinions of local TV can cable news rise with age but fall for network news and national and local papers. College education generally lowers opinions of news media. Note also that women and blacks are generally more favorable.

And now for some good news?

Pew finds encouragement in the enduring positive view of the press’ watchdog role. Well, yes, except that view is declining and it is now a minority view among Republicans. In 1985, during the Reagan years, 67% of Americans — 65% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats — supported the watchdog view. Today that’s 58% for the nation, 71% still for Democrats, but only 44% for Republicans (who fell below the majority line in 2003).

What is it about local TV news?

Finally, I remain befuddled by the continued high ratings for local TV news, which comes out only slightly behind local newspapers. Local TV news sucks. It’s all fires, press releases, weather teases, and time-shifting (‘Police this morning are searching for the criminals who allegedly performed a crime right here where I’m standing last night but in fact no one who’s involved in the story is here right now and I could read this same script to you from the studio after I cadge it from the newspaper but standing here it seem so real and current, doesn’t it? Back to the you, Sally Ann…’). There’s no reporting. The faces we see are all transient as they head from market to market; they don’t know our towns. They’re often not too bright. But yet, they seem friendly. And I fear that the reason people like them is because they don’t report. What’s not to like about pap and predictability?

: RELATED (somewhat): Stowe Boyd writes about social networks and tribalism, inspired by Blonde2.0 on a survey of tribe members.

The architecture of trust

Tim Berners-Lee tells the Guardian’s Bobbie Johnson that the internet — and blogs — are in danger of being overrun by bad actors:

But he warns that “there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way”. He singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information.

Sir Tim believes devotees of blogging sites take too much information on trust: “The blogging world works by people reading blogs and linking to them. You’re taking suggestions of what you read from people you trust. That, if you like, is a very simple system, but in fact the technology must help us express much more complicated feelings about who we’ll trust with what.” The next generation of the internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.

I think this comes down to identity and trust. But I also don’t think the internet can necessarily be much better at this than the real world. Hucksters, scammers, spammers, flacks, and various nefarious liars can come after us on the street, in the mail, on TV, via faxes, on the phone, and now online. Sadly, we have to be on guard against them everywhere. Information is one weapon; the more we can know about them, the better we are and the internet does allow us to gather information and gang up on the bad guys; that’s how spam filters work, albeit damned imperfectly. Identity is the next weapon; the more we know about you, the more we know whether to trust you. I’m not suggesting outlawing anonymity, but I will say again that I must distrust those I can’t identify and the anonymous have to know that is a consequence of their hiding their identities. So I thing Sir Tim’s invention can possibly improve on systems in the real world — it can be a bit better — but there will always be another scumbucket lurking around the corner, looking to exploit any opening. That doesn’t destroy the internet anymore than it destroys the mails. It means we need to find the means to manage it as best we can.

: LATER: Thanks to James in the comments, we see Berners-Lee making clear he wasn’t intending to play chicken little and bash blogs. And he does it on his blog.