Written by Phil Parkinson, Display Director, Guardian News & Media

There is no doubt that we are all living through an extraordinary period in our history. 2020 will be a defining moment – the year the world fought against the coronavirus pandemic, with huge changes to the way we live, work and communicate with each other.

It also throws a bright spotlight on the value of trust. Now, more than ever, people need sources of information they can rely on. 

Yet like many businesses right now, newsbrands are also facing huge challenges; we are battling the winds of a terrible pandemic, the industry dominance of the platforms, and a structural decline in print. But despite these trying times, reader support and the appetite for independent, fact-based journalism has never been stronger. 

Trusted journalism to report on the facts

We’ve seen an explosion in audiences for established newsbrands. The pandemic has seen a surge in the demand for reliable journalism – The Guardian recorded around 2 billion page views to its digital platforms in both March and April, double the average compared to the same time last year, and over 300 million monthly unique visitors. Readers are coming to us for reliable reporting and analysis on the growing pandemic, plus they are staying for longer and are more engaged and supportive than ever. We have seen an increase in direct financial support from our readers and, through these tumultuous times, The Guardian has remained the most trusted newsbrand in the UK.

We’re seeing this demand for news across the board. Newsbrands are reporting huge online audiences, and according to the latest PAMCo data, 92% of the UK adult population read newsbrands every month – which is more than use either Facebook or Google. That’s worth noting, especially for those who might think that newsbrands peaked sometime in the 1980’s. 

In the last few years, we’ve seen a huge rise in news engagement and audiences as we’ve been going through the ongoing turbulence of Brexit and global political instability, Trump and the climate crisis. And now we are living through a global pandemic. The importance of newsbrands is not new, it has just been magnified.

Harnessing the advertising power of newsbrands

So, what does that mean for brands? Well, if brands are serious about not only being where the eyeballs are, but also in consumer trust, then surely the environment in which they place their commercial messages also matters. 

If brands genuinely have a commitment to social good as so many aspire to, then there are few better options than partnering with the very organisations that provide transparent access to information, hold power to account and help to instigate positive change. Think of the impact of quality journalism, such as the Guardian’s investigations of Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during lockdown, the Windrush revelations or the Observer’s world exclusives on Cambridge Analytica. These are stories which define our times. 

Advertisers who do not consider this appeal of news organisations and their engaged readership, particularly during this critical period, may be missing out. Newsbrands that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to trusted, public-interest journalism draw in readers who, every day, come to expect quality, factual reporting. This audience is unique, and provides a powerful place for brands looking to reach a highly engaged and interested group.

And there’s evidence. Research by Newsworks and GroupM has shown that exposure to advertising in a quality environment drives greater engagement, better brand response and is more cost-effective than the same advertising elsewhere. The value of quality should not be underestimated. 

Brands should feel comfortable to be seen in trusted digital and print news environments. And there’s never been a better, or more meaningful time, to back newsbrands.