WHU General

Chance or Increasing Loss of Importance?

The positioning of established media towards fake news

Television, radio, the internet, social media or the traditional newspapers – our sources of information are almost unlimited today. Yet, so called news, which in some cases are nothing but opinions or false statements, are as diverse as the channels they are published on these days. The phenomenon of so-called fake news is spreading. But how does this flood of news influence established media? The Chair of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technological Transformation at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management has addressed this question – with surprising results.

In his study "How Fake News Influence Business Models in the Media Industry", Christoph Busse examined the influence of the major increase in the spreading of fake news on the business model of established media. After supporting his findings with qualitative interviews and a collection of further data, he comes to the conclusion that reputable newspapers, TV stations, and other reliable media do not have to consider the surge in fake news a threat to their business model - quite the contrary. According to Busse's findings, there is a great desire for access to reliable information among users. This offers established media the chance to hone their profile and to clearly distinguish themselves from fake news.

In order to maintain their reputation and distance themselves from fake news, many media companies rely on three components while producing news: increased transparency, the involvement of external experts, and the use of modern technologies to verify news. According to the findings of the study, these measures allow them to be viewed as reliable sources in the public perception. Even if these processes mean an increased workload for the editors, there are more opportunities than risks with regard to fake news. The business model of established media is not called into question by the increasing number of false reports in general, but instead offers the chance to evolve. According to Busse, they can even win back lost market shares. However, compliance with journalistic standards and the disclosure of verifiable background information are essential for this.

The study also reveals that competitors in the established media are now cooperating more closely to improve their position against fake news from different sources. Thus, fake news even offer opportunities for the business model of editorial offices that they would not have had without them. However, the study also states that the slide into a "post-truth-era” is becoming a problem for society overall.

The results of the study were published in Christoph Busse's master's thesis at the Chair of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technological Transformation. The thesis was supervised by Professor Dries Faems.

Download the full master's thesis