Obama meets the press -- on his terms

 A Pew Research Center survey demonstrates just how many people do not get their news from traditional sources—and how much they differ by age group. Sixty-one percent of millennials (ages 18-33) get their news each week on Facebook, while 60 percent of baby boomers (50-68) get theirs from local television. The Gen Xers, who fall between those two groups, are almost split evenly.

This is the environment the Obama White House works amid when communicating with the public, and it shapes their priorities. From Jan. 20 through June 30, 2015, President Obama gave 59 interviews. Nine of those were with online organizations and 14 were with local television. While local television has been important for interviews from the start of the administration, online presidential interviews have increased as social media have developed during the Obama years, particularly in 2015.

While the public may be divided on its news sources, social media provide an opportunity to open up new pathways to people interested in particular issues even if their overall interest in politics is low.

Given the many platforms that exist, targeted interviews are a contemporary way for the president to reach even more people worldwide than a Super Bowl’s audience of 115 million viewers while at the same time locking in on a specific audience. An example of such an interview is one President Obama did on May 8 with Matt Bai of Yahoo News about Trade Promotion Authority legislation and the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. The combined audience of people who came across the interview on social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google +, was stunning.