Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH _ Journalists have interviewed 20 percent of Americans

TODD SMITH _ Journalists have interviewed 20 percent of Americans


The media have long been a part of our everyday lives – from the morning newspaper to nightly TV news to today’s digital news that hits us with headlines 24/7.

Many of you have had interaction with journalists in your lives. This is underscored in an interesting new survey from Pew Research Center that found about two-in-ten Americans (21 percent) say they have ever spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist.

Among those who have, the likelihood varies by personal characteristics.

About 23 percent of whites have had this kind of interaction, compared with 19 percent of blacks and 14 percent of Hispanics, according to the survey, conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, among nearly 35,000 U.S. adults.

Older Americans are also more likely to have had personal contact with a local journalist: A quarter of U.S. adults ages 65 and over have done so, compared with 17 percent of those ages 18 to 29. Of course the older folks have had more time, and a greater chance, to talk with a local reporter over the years.

Educational attainment and income are also tied to Americans’ likelihood of having talked with local news media. The highly educated – those with at least a college degree – are about twice as likely as those with a high school degree or less to have spoken with a local journalist (27 percent vs. 14 percent, respectively). And while 26 percent of those with an income of $75,000 or more have spoken with a local journalist, the share falls to 20 percent  of those who earn between $30,000 and $74,999 and 17 percent of those who make less than $30,000.

There are no differences in these experiences by gender, geographic region or party affiliation. About two-in-ten men and women, self-described urban, suburban and rural residents, and Republicans and Democrats (including independents who lean toward either party) have spoken with a local journalist.

The overall share of Americans who say they have interacted with a local journalist is slightly lower in the new survey than it was in a separate Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2016. In that survey, 26 percent of U.S. adults said they had ever spoken to a local journalist, 5 percentage points higher than currently.

While relatively few people ever get a chance to talk with a local journalist, the interaction does not seem to have much influence on how people rate the job their local media are doing, according to the Center’s new survey.

Among those who have spoken with a local journalist, 28 percent say the local news media do very well at keeping them informed about the most important local stories of the day, compared with 24 percent of those who have not spoken with a local journalist.

When it comes to how Americans rate their local news providers across seven core job functions, only one small difference emerges between those who have spoken with a local journalist and those who have not. Americans who have spoken with a journalist are a bit more likely than those who have not to say the local news media do a very good job including people like them in their reporting (62 percent vs. 57 percent). On the other job functions, such as reporting news accurately or being transparent in their reporting, the two groups rated their local news media the same.

Alexa is taking over the planet!

Alexa sure knows how to get around. The immensely popular – and successful – voice assistant is everywhere.

While other voice assistants are limited primarily to smartphones or have a small number of third-party devices they are compatible with, Amazon has advanced its voice assistant in just about every way imaginable. According to the company, Alexa has tripled the number of smart home devices it supports. Alexa now works with more than 60,000 smart home devices from more than 7,400 brands. From publicly available data, that would make it the most widely accessible voice assistant on the market, according to Digital Trends.

That’s a huge jump for Alexa! Just a year ago, Amazon reported that the voice assistant was compatible with 12,000 devices. Eight months ago, Amazon announced Alexa had reached a milestone of 20,000 compatible smart home products. Through the past three quarters, Amazon has increased the number of products supported by the voice assistant by 200 percent.

Considering the competition, Alexa is at the front of the race by a long margin. Google is the closest competitor with it’s Assistant, which supports 10,000 devices from more than 1,000 popular brands as of October 2018. That number could be higher now, though it also may be shrinking in the near future. During Google I/O, the search giant announced a new privacy initiative that will result in the “Works with Nest” program that allows smart home devices to connect to Nest products becoming obsolete. Some companies will work to update their devices and support Google’s new “Works with Google Assistant” program, but others may let their products lapse and lose the ability to integrate into the Nest ecosystem, according to Digital Trends.

This is no shocker. Amazon has boasted about Alexa’s reach for years. Earlier this year, the company said that more than 100 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold.

Despite the proliferation of Alexa-powered services, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri remain the most used voice assistants due to the availability on smartphones.

Communication technology is now a $4 billion industry

Communications technology spending saw a double-digit increase last year to $4.1 billion, according to a report by Burton-Taylor International Consulting.

The social media segment saw the strongest growth, followed by influencer management and media analysis. Media monitoring and press release distribution also grew, but at lower rates.

Aggressive acquisition allowed Cision to capture more market share and remain the category leader, according to the report. In 2018, Cision reported it grew overall revenue by 15.6 percent year-over-year to $730.4 million. When adjusted for acquisitions and fluctuations in the exchange rate, the company grew revenue by 2 percent for the full fiscal year, according to the 10-K Cision filed in April.

Meltwater, which continues to grow through acquisition, was second, followed by Kantar and Business Wire, the third and fourth largest industry players.

A new player emerged in the PR software segment, when telecoms provider West Corporation acquired Nasdaq’s PR solutions business. That $335 million deal made West Corporation the fifth-largest company, overtaking Australia-based Isentia, according to the report.

West has done well in its press distribution base, with strong cross selling of other services. Now, West Corporation is “moving into acquisitive mode,” according to the report.

In total, Cision has snapped up more than a dozen companies since its 2014 merger with Vocus. It added social media company Falcon.io and digital PR platform TrendKite at the start of 2019. In the year prior, it acquired ShareIQ’s visual technology.

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ