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High Tech Giants Take Reputational Hit on Harris Poll

Big names in high tech suffered reputational blows in this year’s Harris Poll Reputation Quotient because of festering concerns over privacy issues. Amazon and Microsoft bucked the trend by moving up the ladder of reputational admiration.

Big names in high tech suffered reputational blows in this year’s Harris Poll Reputation Quotient because of festering concerns over privacy issues. Amazon and Microsoft bucked the trend by moving up the ladder of reputational admiration.

Privacy concerns, high-profile scandals and proposals to break up high tech monopolies has taken a toll on the reputations of Facebook, Google and Apple.

Once the darlings on the Harris Poll that measures the reputations of the 100 most visible companies in the United States, familiar technology giants have seen their reputational numbers slide this year. Apple went from number one in 2012 to 32nd this year. Google went from eighth to 28th in the same period. Facebook fell the furthest from 51st in last year’s list to 94th.

Amazon bucked the trend, but still fell from first last year to second. Microsoft rose two spots to ninth. The most impressive upswing was by Samsung that climbed 28 rungs to 35th. Sony scrambled up 21 spots to 31st.

Wegmans Food Markets claimed the top spot this year. Patagonia and L.L. Bean moved up to fourth and fifth, respectively. Other rising reputations were 21st Century Fox (up 21), Home Depot (up 14), Procter & Gamble (up 12) and LG Corporation (up 10). Mildly surprising gainers included JP Morgan Chase (up 11) and Royal Dutch Shell (up to 10).

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In addition to Facebook and Google, the companies with the biggest reputational dents in their hoods included Tesla Motors (down 39), McDonald’s (down 29), Target (down 23), Nike (down 23), Chick-fil-A (down 18), Comcast (down 13) and Sears (down 9).

Facebook’s slide from grace undoubtedly is linked to last October’s bombshell that hackers may have absconded with data from 30 million uses of the popular social media site. News since then hasn’t been much better. More concerns about unreported efforts by Facebook to monetize user data and a disclosure about a pending multi-million dollar fine connected with privacy.

"What was driving a lot of that decline was how Facebook became misaligned with American society,” Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema told USA Today. "Big Tech sort of became front and center as a societal fear.” Harris has found 69 percent of Americans regard privacy of data as extremely important. Only 15 percent of respondents think Facebook does enough to protect user personal information.

Apple had its privacy day in the court of public opinion when it was discovered the FaceTime App could be used for eavesdropping. Google suffered problems with its Chrome browser and disinterest in Google+. 

Gerzema credited Wegmans topping the list because of “its ability to build an experience and a community in its stores.” He said companies such as Patagonia and L.L. Bean saw rising reputations because of their “commitment to social values.” “It is important for companies to understand how important values are today,” he said.

 

Viewers Express Exhaustion with Relentless Flow of Bad News

The news can be relentless, negative and evidently exhausting, according to a New Pew Research survey. There are antidotes ranging from not watching TV, tuning into social media or asking Google to search for good news. But negative news remains alluring and as addictive as nicotine.

The news can be relentless, negative and evidently exhausting, according to a New Pew Research survey. There are antidotes ranging from not watching TV, tuning into social media or asking Google to search for good news. But negative news remains alluring and as addictive as nicotine.

Americans admit to being exhausted by the news, which can seem relentlessly negative and depressing.

According to a new Pew Research survey, Republicans admit to more fatigue than Democrats. News fatigue is more common among people who follow the news less frequently and have a lower regard for the news media. White Americans report noticeably greater news fatigue than African-Americans or Latinos.

“If you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up, you are not alone,” writes Jeffrey Gottfried and Michael Barthel of the Pew Research Center. “Almost seven-in-10 Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-10 who say they like the amount of news they get.”

The news tends to exhaust Republicans more (77%) than Democrats (61%), which probably has something to do with the content of the news. The Pew researchers note, “This elevated fatigue among Republicans tracks with them having less enthusiasm than Democrats for the 2018 elections.”

There are noteworthy demographic differences on the news fatigue curve. Women express more exhaustion than men. College graduates feel slightly more worn out than high school graduates. Older adults are less fatigued than younger adults. 

In light of all this exhaustion, Google has stepped in with relief from too much “negative news” by offering an assist from Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google, tell me something good.” Google Assistant then provides a summary of stories about “people who are solving problems for our communities and our world.” Many of the stories are plucked from the Solutions Journalism Network, which isn’t a regular contributor to mainstream news feeds.

However, the BBC says even though people may be fatigued by negative news, they are drawn to it like moths to bright light. “It isn’t just schadenfreude, we’ve evolved to react quickly to potential threats. Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we’re doing to avoid danger.” We watch negative news for the same reasons we are drawn to the Walking Dead.

The New York Times published an article last year that suggested the more news people consume makes them yearn for “emotionality” in coverage, which often translates into negative stories. “Negativity is emphasized to keep [viewers] engaged,” according to a British psychology professor, Graham C.L. Davey. Negative news is apparently as addictive as nicotine.

One solution to “living in a Superconducting Super Collider of news with information bombarding us at a head-spinning velocity” is simply to turn to “slow news,” according to Dan Gillmor, a professor of media literacy at Arizona State University. Slow news could be as simple as plodding along without checking social media and news websites every few minutes.

News fatigue runs in cycles, often on the same wavelength as elections. As election day approaches and there is exponentially more political news, news watchers grow weary. Despite being tired, like campers who pulled an all-nighter around a campfire, they still have to watch the news so they don’t miss the latest sliver of negative news.

We do a lot of things when we are bone-tired. Watching the news, it turns out, is one of them.

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Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling. 


Serious Consumer Privacy Protection

To afford citizens greater protection from government spying may require tighter consumer privacy regulations and different IT company business models.Controversy spurred by revelations of National Security Agency spying on U.S. citizens has curled back to lax privacy provisions on major technology giants such as Google and Yahoo. They also lead to a very different kind of recommendations for protecting consumer and citizen privacy.

Georgetown University Professor Abraham Newman writes in Foreign Affairs that Silicon Valley data masters protest too much about routine NSA poking around. "The companies pledge to step up privacy protections," Newman says, "but such protections run counter to the business model and public policy agenda that tech companies have pursued for decades."

"For years, U.S. information technology firms have actively backed weak privacy rules that let them collect massive amounts of personal data," Newman explains. "That strategy enable the companies to work their way into every corner of consumers' lives and gave them a competitive edge internationally. These same policies, however, have come back to haunt IT firms. Lax rules created fertile ground for NSA snooping."

Newman says U.S. officials, including the Obama administration, have acquiesced to self-regulation by American IT giants. "Until this year, the self-regulation strategy paid off," Newman writes. "With their nearly unrestricted access to U.S. consumer data, IT companies were able to mine information in ways that many of their European competitors could never imagine."

Facebook Dominates, But May Not Satisfy

Facebook is still king of the social media universe, but its users are grumpy, which could open a door for a challenger that provides better customer satisfaction.Customer satisfaction ratings for Facebook continue to lag, which might afford an opening for a competitor such as Google+, according to survey results released last week by ForeSee Results.

"The social media market is primed for a new player that allows users to connect with friends," ForeSee Results predicts, based on customer experience analytics used in its American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). "Despite a small improvement this year, Facebook is the lowest-socring site, not only in the social media category, but of all measured companies in this report."

Wikipedia ranks highest among social media sites at 78, with YouTube at 74 as runner-up. Facebook's score is 66.

"An existing dominance of market share like Facebook," says ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed, "is no longer a safety net for a company that is not providing a superior customer experience." Noting Facebook's even worse rating last year, Freed said some customers may be dissatisfied with the site's evolution as a commercial platform.

Tellingly, MySpace was dropped from the survey because of too few users. Google+ wasn't scored because it was just introduced.

Google scores a survey-topping 83 in the search engine and portal category. Bing follows closely behind with a score of 82, an impressive 7-point jump over last year.

"Last year, Google's customer satisfaction score was three points better than Bing's," Freed notes. "This year, that gap narrows to one point. Bing is showing it can challenge Google in terms of revenue, market share and the customer experience."

News websites also are ranked and FoxNews.com comes out on top with a score of 82. ABCNews,com is next with a score of 77 and HuffingtonPost.com debuts with a bottom-of-the-rung 69. NYTimes.com dropped four points this year to a score of 73.