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Today's Anger Is Perfect For Innovation

As anger festers online and people distrust institutions, areas for innovation are opening

21Nov

On October 15, Graham Linehan, one of the most famous comedy writers in the UK wrote 'With Twitter such a cesspool, the least I can do is rob @jack and @biz of one blue tick. I can’t be complicit anymore.' There was then a countdown to 1pm when Linehan left the Twitterverse, citing the culture of hate and division on the platform as the primary reason, alongside 'Twitter’s refusal to suspend Donald Trump for his North Korea threat. This was so obviously a violation of their own ToS and they didn’t suspend his account or even try to delete it.'

There are also, famously, Donald Trump supporters who refer to themselves as deplorables, left wing Bernie Bros, Feminists, Anti-Feminists, Centrists, etc who each have their own friction with different groups, with each issue being played out in the most public fashion. This isn't just something we are seeing online either, around the UK after the highly controversial Brexit vote hate crimes spiked by 23% in the following 11 months, while according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in the 3 months after Donald Trump was elected crimes targeting Muslims increased by 91%.

At the same time as this amount of hate between people, there are still some universally hated institutions. For instance, according to Gallup's Confidence in Institutions: 2016 and 2017 poll, US banks are trusted by only 32% of people, 12% trust Congress, 27% trust newspapers, and 21% trust big businesses. What is clear is that people have almost no trust in some of their most important institutions and businesses and this creates a situation where innovators can make a real impact.

This is why, according to a study conducted by Bain & Co., nearly 60% of people in the US are willing to try financial products from tech companies, with this number rising to close to 80% in China and India. This is not surprising given how the banking industry has negatively impacted the world over the past few years with the actions of the industry causing millions of people to lose their homes or savings in the late 2000's and it is still acting recklessly today with several scandals reported every year.

Newspapers may be increasing in their trustworthiness (27% in 2017 vs 20% in 2016) but when 73% of the population doesn't trust such a vital industry combined with only 16% trusting 'News on the internet' and 24% trusting television news, there is very clearly something wrong. When the top three sources of information average only 22.3% trustworthiness amongst the population they are meant to inform, there are 77.7% of the population easily swayed by another option.

It is in these circumstances where innovation can flourish. These are some of the oldest and most established industries in the world who are incredibly vulnerable because they have not effectively adapted to a shifting landscape and in many cases, such as the case of TV news, even damaged their marketplace in a desperate attempt to maintain relevance, further decreasing their trust amongst the public.

The issue with each of these huge industries is that they have been so synonymous with the specific service they provide that trying to replace it with something new is difficult, even if an overwhelming majority of people distrust it. However, it opens up segments of the market to others who can serve smaller parts, for instance the Independent introduced the I which presents stories in short form, easily digestible formats. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have also created news sections on their sites and startups like Circa and Skim That create condensed news feeds to help people digest information quickly and easily.

As more and more staples of society are deemed untrustworthy as they turn from useful to annoying or not fit for purpose, it opens space in the market for innovative companies to take advantage - the big question for many of these huge incumbents is not if, but when this happens. 

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