Media Sites Fare Badly in Online Trust Audit

No wonder consumers are angry at on-line media companies. There’s a lot of reality in consumer fears that online news sites are tracking them and violating their privacy more than other sites they visit on the web. Much of that, unfortunately, is due to the advertising business model. We have to fix this, or we will lose the trust of consumers even more, and perhaps destroy advertising as a viable business model. We can’t let that happen. The sites may be the responsibility of the publisher, but advertisers pay the bills.

News and media sites are among the lowest performers in the Online Trust Alliance’s annual audit. The OTA analyzes close to 1000 sites, including the internet retailer top 500 sites, the FIDC top 100 banks, and internet services such as media sites, dating sites, ancestry and DNA sites, and even the top 50 government sites. The audit examines these sites for three major attributes:

1)Consumer protection from fraud, malware, and phishing. Malware and malvertising are also key areas in news and media segments, and were a major cause of failure when media sites failed to make the Honor Roll. The audit found 54 incidents, serving 1.1b impressions.  17% of the audited news sites had at least one incident.

2)Privacy:  how secure are the sites and how compliant are they with laws for data protection;.

3)Security -Have they experienced data loss or incidents

The Online Trust Association’s audit and Honor Roll are now in their 8th year, with the goal of educating brands and advertisers about best practices in data security and privacy and moving companies from compliance to stewardship. We’ve been on that Honor Roll for four years now, and we know we are up to date on the best practices. We’re in close touch with OTA all year to find out how to improve.  If you’d like us to help you, please give us a call.

This year, about 50% of the sites audited were using best practices, and 40% of the sites sampled have made the Honor Roll for the first time. This shows a progression on the part of industry toward greater awareness of consumer protection as a major necessity.

But here’s the bad news for media sites: only about 23% of those audited employed best practices. A third of media sites fail because of insufficient email authentication, and many others fail because of insufficient protection of consumer privacy. In toto, 60% of news sites failed to protect consumer privacy, mainly because they are using too many trackers.

We can do better than this! No news organizations are even in the top ten, which includes Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox, FileYourTaxes, Imperial Bank, Lifelock, Instagram, Google,, and Google. Twitter was number one overall.

Shouldn’t we be embracing self-regulation beyond mere compliance? It seems like it would be good business.