A measure of media trustworthiness

A publication online that makes its money by displaying ads can be profitable even by publishing a slew of bad or offensive articles. That will drive the traffic too; people will share its content even if it’s to complain about it. It will also be trustworthy in that people can always trust to publish a predictable kind of content.

But when the publication stops making its money through ads and pivots to a less quantitative, more qualitative channel of revenue, it can afford less to publish bad content and even lesser to make money off of it.

You can see how this is a stream: upstream is the publisher publishing the content, midway is the consumer reading and engaging with the content, and downstream is the publisher once again, cashing in on the user’s actions in some way.

Now, if the midway behaviour changes, will there be an upstream effect that is not mediated by the downstream response? I.e., if people stopped sharing bad content because they no longer want to give the article in question any play, will publishers stop putting out bad content irrespective of whether it affects their revenues?

If the answer to this question is yes, then I think that’s what would make (or keep) the publisher trustworthy in an economic environment where private corporations are simply buying publications out instead of fighting them.