It’s no surprise that the number of people who still read their favourite newspaper over a morning coffee and croissant is dwindling. In its place is likely a touchscreen device, with financial news content suggested by applications and online news feeds. The tech revolution has caused a shift in the way media is delivered and how we consume it. Rather than editorial teams, it’s algorithms. This begs the question: can we trust the financial news we’re reading?
Those who advocate for algorithms say they omit human prejudice in what gets screen time. The result however has often been that clickbait and sensationalist headlines are preferred over detailed financial analysis. There is simply too much news for any online platform to show us everything. Regardless, there are some questions regarding how this is managed, and how as a consumer, you can ensure you’re still reading a variety of opinions.
Online and offline biases
We all know that the big media tycoons have their own biases. Despite this, it isn’t unreasonable that many of us also expect editorial oversight to ensure some level of impartiality in the topics discussed. In contrast, social media doesn’t have this oversight. The algorithms that choose what you see, reflect, or reinforce your views.
Most of us are likely to surround ourselves with people who share our values – online and offline. Problems arise when these people become your sole source of information, meaning you’re not exposed to opinions that differ from your own. These information communities can become echo chambers that reject alternative opinions, silencing the full story.
A step in the right direction
Thankfully the technology giants acknowledge these issues. In 2018 Facebook made landmark shifts in the shape of its algorithm to promote ‘meaningful’ connections over branded content and to reduce the impact of sensationalist, clickbait articles1.
Similarly, Apple News, recognising that algorithms sometimes lack subtlety in their curation, put a team of journalists in charge of curating their feed2.
More recently, finance influencers, known as ‘finfluencers‘, were advised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that they cannot discuss finance and investing online without a financial services license, or authorisation from a licensee. Doing so may put them in breach of the law ³. All these measures combined are a step in the right direction to better assist you in making informed, balanced decisions for you and your loved ones.
A foundation of trust
The most important question is who can you trust? Algorithms? Experts? Friends and family? On a practical level, you put your trust in experts every day. You go to a doctor when you’re unwell, and a mechanic to fix your car. Much like a newsfeed can’t report on all news on one wall, we simply can’t know everything there is to know about the market. As a result, we rely on others as sources of truth, or experts in their fields, all the time.
Wherever you get your financial news, if you walk away with the reassurance that comes with not having to worry about the future, lean into this. You’re the only person who truly knows that is right for you and your family, and decisions that bring you closer towards your goals are worth embracing.
You deserve to feel empowered and informed in your financial decisions. Find an approach to consuming media that works for you. This might mean subscribing to a variety of publications you trust and doing further research to find out the whole story. It could also mean having a sounding board you have faith in. The state of media is noisier than ever, and the finance industry is not immune. The volume of opinions we’re exposed to can be daunting for even the savviest of investors.
Just know that we’re here to help. It always makes sense to have an expert in your corner to cut through the jargon and make sense of financial news as it relates to your individual circumstances.