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Vox: Building Audience Trust

Understanding the world is an increasingly complex and time-consuming proposition. At Vox, we have a responsibility that starts with respecting our audience’s time. When our audience comes to us, it’s because they need to know something, and they trust we’ll help them learn.

But that trust must be earned - it’s the most important exchange between a newsroom and the audience, particularly at a time when trust in institutions is eroding. At Vox, we show our work to respect our audience’s time and to build their trust in us. By approaching every topic with transparency, we honor their intellectual curiosity and human dignity.

Our journalism is a service to the audience. People are at the center of what we do and why we do it. We spark curiosity, over-deliver on expectations, and embrace nuance while offering moral clarity in everything we cover. We empower our audience by carefully explaining the facts, what matters, and how ideas are shaping our world.

It was important that we hear feedback from news consumers about how we’re earning that trust, so we conducted a survey led by Edwin Wong, Vox’s SVP, Insights & Innovation, and the Circus, an insight and data storytelling consultancy. Our goal was to learn more about their experiences with news providers.

TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO THE NEWS AREN’T MEETING AUDIENCE NEEDS

Nearly ⅔ of our polled audience feel that other news organizations don’t offer the necessary educational tools to give the context of why something is important, or how to become engaged in the outcome of current affairs.

Audiences want to go deeper in the news they consume — they want ideas to be dissected, not just discussed.

Most of our polled audience is looking for news orgs to not just tell them what’s going on, but how they should be involved. This isn’t surprising. It’s what we deliver, and why many are loyal to Vox.

We return to the idea of journalism as a service to the public. Audiences aren’t just looking for the news to tell them what happened – they want to know why and they want to understand the implications and stakes of a big news event. They want to know that they’re hearing directly from subject-matter experts, and they want to be able to clearly form conclusions rather than biases.

Thoughtful, well-researched news isn’t enough. Audiences want to both understand the news and want to know how to get involved. For example, it’s not enough to tell news consumers that climate change is happening — they need to know how to be effective at creating a positive impact.

THE NEW IMPERATIVE FOR NEWS

These audience needs aren’t driven by whims; they’re driven by a desire to live a better life. By bringing context, solutions and clear frames for decision making, Vox delivers what news audiences need right now: empowering through understanding. When we polled the news-consuming audience about their interest in Vox’s core tenets, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A clear majority of news audiences are interested in the reporting that we provide.

VOX’S AUDIENCE LOYALTY DEEPENS

Traffic to news organizations normally follows a pattern: more people become engaged during big events when the stakes are heightened, such as with presidential elections or the outbreak of a pandemic. These moments are exceptional. But Vox isn’t only reporting during busy news cycles. We constantly meet our audience’s needs by focusing on important conversations and crucial decisions - like how people can do the most good.

What we’ve found is that our audience has a group of “hardcore” weekly news readers. They consumed more news this year than last, and they look at Vox as their primary source of media. They are actively engaged in digital news spaces, and they talk about the news online and offline. This group, not surprisingly, feels well-informed and well versed in what is happening in the world. But despite widely acknowledged burnout and oversaturation in other digital spaces, this “hardcore” audience has remained loyal to Vox. Only 4% of this group is engaging less than they were a year ago, and only 13% of non-“hardcore” Vox news readers have cut back on their news consumption.

That means Vox is stable or growing with 96% of our polled audience identifying as “hardcore” news readers, and 87% with other audiences.

Why do we have such loyalty? Our mission is paying off in a meaningful way: 86% of the hardcore news readers, and 71% of the non-hardcore news readers, have learned enough to consider themselves well-versed or to hold their own in a conversation about the news.

JOURNALISM AS A SERVICE

People want to be heard and acknowledged, both in their personal lives and in public: on a grand scale, but also in the personal. They are curious about the world, they don’t want to be talked down to, and they want to understand the world with insight and truth. We approach our work as a service to our audience, from explaining the complexities of the Russian-Ukraine crisis, addressing what’s going on with children’s vaccines, to the very human experience of understanding love. At Vox, we are deepening our commitment to our audience at a time when the stakes could not be higher.

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Methodology: The Vox Media I&I team surveyed 3,000 news readers at the end of 2021 with our partner, The Circus: an insight and data storytelling consultancy that specializes in original trend research, thought leadership, and strategic brand positioning rooted in a human-data centric approach.