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Trust Determines What Investors Read Online

Time and attention are scarce, but its trust that determines how they’re spent

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The problem with too much content is neither clients’ short attention spans nor their limited reading time.

When people come across new content – including your fund manager’s insights – their attention is governed by trust. To see it, consider what happens when your content is sent out into the world, in search of an audience.

What happens when content meets clients?

The first option is, content gets ignored. This happens either because it was never shown to the audience (due to algorithmic filtering), or because readers see it and still choose to ignore it. After all, we’re each bombarded with far more content than our cognition can take in.

The decision-making process on choosing to read new content is incredibly swift. When analysing the behaviour of readers lacking trust in news, Reuters Institute reports:

Because few tended to click through the links they did see, many made quick, in- the-moment judgements about the credibility of the information being reported.  

On occasion, a reader will pause to take notice. And whether they read a little or the entire piece, this interaction leaves a trace (which is either positive or negative).

The build of this trace over multiple interactions is what creates trust. If a source of information pleased the reader once, twice, thrice…the next time they’ll be given more leeway.

The reader’s bias on whether to consider the information shifts from a “No” to a “Yes”.

When Content Meets Clients
Source: FinText

Example

The following titles are for two articles, published by different investment companies.  Both are paid media. Yet to the reader they appear identical:

  • Pushing for greater impact through company engagement
  • Is climate change engagement actually having an impact?

In fact, our analysis of the “Industry Voice” paid advertorials published on Investment Week during H1 2021 showed nearly half the articles were on ESG. Yet many of them used very similar language.

The question is then, what language should they be using?

When content meets clients, they already have a set of expectations in mind. Including what an informative title is, as set by the sources they already trust.

People who read business news are used to longer headlines. The chart shows average headline length (in words), by category, for a decade worth’s of articles on CNN. (No major difference year-to-year.)

Average Title Length (in words)
Source: CNN, Kaggle

Now take a look at investment managers’ content. Comparing all the articles published by five investment managers over H1 2022, you can see headline averages hovering below eight words.

Differently put, chopping headlines means investment managers’ headlines have 33% less capacity to transfer information.

Average Title Length For Five Investment Managers, H1 2022
Source: FinText

The obvious shortcut to building trust is by emulating the sources clients already enjoy. And the distinction investment marketers make, between sophisticated and retail investors, now becomes clear:

Different investment audiences regularly read and trust different information sources. But in both cases, unless a quick scan of new content reveals an accessible value-add, content is simply ignored.

To break into readers’ content bubble, you first have to see it:

  • Identify the language clients like – so you can match it
  • Pick up hot topics coming up in online conversations – so you can position your insights accordingly.
  • Measure your content like the industrial process that it is – and improve it