NEW YORK: Search engines are the most trusted media source globally according to a new survey which shows them edging ahead of traditional media for the first time.

The 2015 edition of the annual Trust Barometer produced by PR firm Edelman was based on survey of 33,000 people (including 27,000 members of the general public and 6,000 identified as the "informed public") in 27 countries around the world.

It found that media was the least trusted industry sector, with just 51% expressing faith in it. Further, search engines (64%) emerged as more trusted than traditional media (62%), with millennials in particular (72%) likely to prefer them.

"The takeaway from that particular finding is as a company is thinking about their content or message, the findability of that is paramount and the pervasiveness of that across multiple channels is also critical," said Ben Boyd, president of Edelman's practices, sectors, and offerings.

He told PR Week that public trust in businesses, NGOs, media and government was falling across the board, the first time in 15 years this had happened.

"We have historically seen a seesaw," he explained. "When business is up, government is down and vice versa."

He attributed this development to the list of "unpredictable and unimaginable" events that took place in 2014, from the spread of the ebola virus in West Africa, to air crashes and disappearances, the rigging of foreign exchange markets, data breaches …

"The list goes on, and folks are feeling out of control," said Boyd. "They are waking up and going, 'Oh, yet again another thing'."

A related finding was that more than half of the global informed public (51%) think that the pace of development and change in business today is too fast.

But relatively few believed the changes have anything to do with improving people's lives (30%) or making the world a better place (24%).

Rather technology (70%), business growth targets (66%) and greed (54%) were seen as the main drivers of change.

"Trust is a forward-facing metric of stakeholder expectation," Edelman declared and suggested that business could raise trust levels by developing ideas and products that yield societal and personal benefits.

Data sourced from Edelman, PR Week; additional content by Warc staff